Seventh-Inning Rally Propels Bears into MVC Tournament
May 4, 2014
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Knowing late in Sunday's game that it would take a victory to make it into the MVC Tournament, the Missouri State softball seniors sparked a seventh-inning rally propelling the Bears (27-26, 10-16) to a 3-1 win on the final day of the regular season at Evansville (19-32, 7-19). Missouri State earns the eighth and final spot in the postseason tournament and will face UNI at 11:05 a.m. in Thursday's opening round game.
"Our seniors have been great leaders all season on and off the field," said head coach Holly Hesse following the win. "They took it upon themselves and got it done in the seventh. The big thing is we got ourselves in the Tournament and the seniors stepped up and made that happen."
Sophomore Bethany Sullinger picked up her 45th RBI of the season at the most critical time on a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh inning. Her sac fly proved to push home the winning run.
Senior Kerri Cunningham cemented her name in the MSU record book with two stolen bases. She now has 25 stolen bases, the second-best single season in school history. Cunningham also went 2-for-2 with a walk and sacrifice bunt on the day.
Stacia Boeckstiegel and Ashley Brentz each added two hits in the game. Heather Duckworth added a hit in the pivotal seventh inning. Rebecca McPherson also had a hit, driving in the first run of the game.
Freshman pitcher Erin Struemph earned the win in relief pitching 4.2 solid innings. She struck out four hitters and scattered just four hits while not allowing a walk.
Kerri Cunningham reached on an infield single with one down in the Bears' first inning. Two pitches later, she swiped second, her 24th stolen base of the year and second-highest single season total in school history. The UE right fielder made a diving catch to end the inning, though, to keep the Bears off the board.
The Purple Aces hit a pair of doubles in the bottom of the first to inch ahead, 1-0.
Chelsea Jones drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the second inning. Pinch runner Olivia Roark moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Stacia Boeckstiegel. Erin Duewel grounded out to the right side, moving Roark to third. Rebecca McPherson stepped in and looped a single into centerfield to tie the game.
Ashley Brentz singled to center to start the third inning. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cunningham, but was stranded there to end the frame.
With one out in the fourth inning, Boeckstiegel was hit by a pitch, the 20th time she was hit in her career. She was replaced at first on a fielder's choice by Duewel, who promptly stole second. McPherson drew a walk to continue the inning. Braxton Coil lined a single off the UE pitcher to load the bases, but MSU was unable to push home a run.
Cunningham slapped a single over third base to get the fifth inning under way. She stole second and advanced to third on a groundout to the left side. Evansville was able to get out of trouble stranding her at third.
Boeckstiegel reached on an infield single to lead off the sixth. Duewel advanced her to second with a sacrifice bunt, but again the Bears were not able to capitalize.
Brentz led off the seventh with a single to center. She moved to second as Cunningham walked. Duckworth reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Bethany Sullinger drove a ball deep to left that was tracked down for a sacrifice fly giving the Bears the lead. It was Sullinger's 45th RBI of the season, one shy of tying the school record for a season. Chelsea Jones followed suit and flew deep to center for another sacrifice fly. Boeckstiegel continued the inning with an infield hit, but MSU left runners at the corners.
The rally proved to be enough as Struemph made short work of the Purple Aces in the bottom of the seventh to wrap up the win.
Missouri State now travels to Normal, Ill., for next week's MVC Tournament. The Bears face UNI (28-19, 14-12) in the opening game on Thursday at 11:05 a.m. The game can be viewed online through the Valley Live page.