Softball Scores Early, Survives Late to Advance in MVC Tournament
May 8, 2014
NORMAL, Ill. - The Missouri State softball team (28-26) knocked off the preseason conference-favorites, UNI (28-20) by a 4-3 tally in the opening round of the MVC Tournament in Normal, Ill., on Thursday afternoon. The Bears took a first inning lead and never trailed despite a furious comeback by the Panthers. With the win, head coach Holly Hesse retakes the outright lead in all-time MVC Tournament wins with 69 and her Bears will take on Bradley in the next round at 4:05 p.m. today.
Freshman pitcher Erin Struemph threw a complete game in her first postseason appearance. She struck out six Panthers and did not allow a hit until the fourth inning.
Sophomore Bethany Sullinger tied a school record with her 46th RBI of the season, matching Heather Anderson's total from 1996.
Brentz began the game with a single through the left side. Kerri Cunningham followed and was hit by a pitch. Duckworth moved both runners into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Then with two outs, Jones roped a double into left-center, plating the first two runs of the game.
Brentz again sparked a rally in the third inning. She dropped a drag bunt down the first base line and reached easily as no one covered first for UNI. Cunningham moved her to second on a ground out. Duckworth lined a double to the left-centerfield gap to drive home Brentz. The double was the 36th of Duckworth's career, tying her for fifth in school history. Sullinger continued the inning with an RBI double of her own. The run batted in was the 46th of the year for Sullinger, tying the single season school record. Two batters later, Stacia Boeckstiegel was hit with the first pitch she saw, the 21st time in her career. Both runners remained on base as the inning closed.
The Bears looked to add onto the lead in the fourth. Rebecca McPherson scalded a ball off of third base after fouling off several pitches to stay alive to lead off the inning. Braxton Coil got down a sacrifice bunt to move McPherson into scoring position. Brentz was robbed of her third hit of the game on a diving catch by the UNI left fielder. Then with two outs, Cunningham drew a walk, but the Bears were left scoreless in the inning.
UNI got its first hit of the game with one out in the fourth after the ball popped out of Cunningham's glove on a diving attempt. The Panthers put up four more hits in the inning and drew within 4-3, but Struemph induced a pop up to end the inning with two aboard.
Struemph got out of a couple of late jams, including stranding the tying and winning runs on base to end the game.
Missouri State advances to face Bradley (24-30) in the quarterfinals at 4:05 p.m. today. The winner will advance to the semifinals and play regular-season champions Wichita State (34-20) on Friday at 12:05 p.m.