Missouri State wins Central Arkansas Lead-Off Tournament
The Missouri State softball team defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff and host Central Arkansas to claim the University of Central Arkansas Lead-Off Tournament championship on Sunday in Conway, Ark. The Bears used an 11-run fourth inning to cruise to a 20-4 victory over Arkansas Pine-Bluff in the first round of bracket play and defeated Central Arkansas, 6-0, behind a no-hitter from junior pitcher Melissa Porche in the championship game to claim the title and improve to 5-0 on the season.
Porche took a perfect game into the top of the seventh against UCA, before walking the leadoff hitter in the inning. The Buena Park, Calif., native struck out 11 batters in the game to improve her three-game total to 33 and moved her record to 3-0 on the season. Porche struck out a batter in all but one inning, and struck out the side in the 6th and the final two UCA batters to end the game.
The Bears’ offense gave Porche an early lead, as MSU scored three first inning runs. Senior Katie Martin led off the inning with a double, followed by a Jessie Smith RBI single and a Michelle Armentrout RBI double. Porche helped her cause by driving in Armentrout on a groundout. Missouri State added a run in the second inning, as Smith drove in freshman Dusti Foster, who singled with one out in the inning. Martin then capped the scoring in the sixth inning with a two-run homer to left-center field scoring freshman Jodie Shead, who notched her third hit of the game with one out in the frame.
Martin was the offensive star, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. Shead also was 3-for-3 on the day, and Smith and Armentrout each added two-hit performances. Junior Lacie Ballard, sophomore Elysha Swider, and Foster each added singles to give the Bears 13 hits in the game.
In the first game of the day, Missouri State jumped out to an early lead against Arkansas Pine-Bluff, as the Bears plated five runs in the first inning. After Martin reached on an error to start the inning, the sophomore Smith blasted a two-run homer to center field. Armentrout made it back-to-back homers as the junior third basemen also cleared the wall in center field. Starting pitcher Megan Ramsey singled in Ballard and sophomore Brooke Kempker scored on a wild pitch to add to the Bears’ run total. The Bears increased their lead to 9-0, as MSU saw four more runners cross the plate in the second inning. Porche reached on a fielder’s choice to drive in Smith after she singled with one out in the inning. After a walk and an error, Swider singled down the left field line to score Ballard and Porche. Kempker drove in pinch runner Carrie Roberson for the Bears’ fourth run of the inning.
After Arkansas-Pine Bluff cut the MSU lead to 9-4, the Bears answered with 11 runs in the fourth. Junior Jana Shewmaker, Ramsey, freshman Lauren McGinley, Martin, Smith, Ballard, Roberson, and Kempker all picked up hits in the inning. Ramsey laced a two-run single, McGinley an RBI double, Martin an RBI triple, and Smith added her second two-run home run of the game to highlight the inning. Ballard added an RBI single, Roberson an RBI triple, and Kempker an RBI single to conclude the scoring for the Bears. Missouri State pounded out a total of 13 hits in the game.
Ramsey improved to 2-0 on the season, as she went the distance allowing three earned runs on three hits. The Ottawa, Kan., native struck out three UAPB batters while walking two in five innings.
Five Bears earned all-tournament honors, as Porche, Armentrout, Smith, Swider, and Martin were selected to the 14-member team. The Bears scored 48 runs in their five games and committed only one error in the tournament.
Missouri State will travel to Houston, Texas, for the Crowne Plaza Classic hosted by the University of Houston next weekend, Feb. 16-18. The Bears will take on nationally top-10 ranked Louisiana State at 5 p.m. and Houston at 9 p.m. on Friday, Texas State at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and Indiana and Centenary College at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, on Sunday.