Luna, Big Inning Doom Softball Bears at Texas Invitational
AUSTIN, Texas – The Missouri State softball team gave 13th-ranked Texas all it wanted for five-and-a-half innings Sunday before the Longhorns erupted for all five of their runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to snap a scoreless duel en route to 5-0 win in the title game of the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational at Red and Charline McCombs Field.
The Bears couldn’t tame Texas sophomore All-American Blaire Luna, who worked a complete-game, two-hit shutout for the victory, striking out 12 Missouri State hitters to improve to 6-0 on the season.
MSU junior Natalie Rose matched the reigning Big 12 Pitcher of the Year pitch-for-pitch through the first five innings, setting the tone early by striking-out the side in the first and four of the first six Longhorn hitters of the ball game. Rose retired the first nine batters she faced before Taylor Hoagland broke up the perfect game with a lead-off, bunt-single in the fourth. She responded by setting down the next five hitters in succession, and entered the decisive sixth inning having allowed just two baserunners.
But that’s when the Texas offense awoke from its slumber, as the Longhorns pounded out five hits and sent 10 batters to the plate to ultimately decide the outcome. Texas put its first four batters on base, as Taylor Thom got things going with a double to left-center, followed by a bunt-single from Hoagland and a base-on-balls for Brejae Washington. Lexy Bennett then came through with the biggest blow of the game, driving a double into the right-center field gap that Raeven Replogle could not corral, thus allowing both Thom and Hoagland to score. Amy Hooks then delivered an RBI-grounder, and both Nadia Taylor and Mandy Ogle added run-scoring singles.
Luna also played a key role in turning the momentum in Texas’s favor for good, working out of a first-and-third scoring opportunity in the top of the sixth inning. Kirstin Cutter beat out an infield single to lead-off the inning and moved over the third on a pair of bunts. Then, pinch-hitter Stevie Pierce extended Luna to a full count before drawing ball four and setting up the Bears’ only true scoring threat of the afternoon.
But Luna struck-out cleanup hitter Caitlin Chapin on four pitches to squash the rally attempt, then slammed the door shut in the seventh with three more strikeouts to conclude the tournament with a 3-0 mark, including 32 strikeouts and just five hits allowed over 16.0 innings of work in which she did not allow a single earned run.
For her part, Rose (1-2) turned in a solid effort, allowing just seven hits while fanning seven and walking two hitters in the complete-game performance.
Cutter recorded the only two hits of the game for the Bears, with a two-out, infield single in the third to go along with her sixth-inning safety.
“We had a really good weekend, and the experience we gained should help us down the stretch,” head coach Holly Hesse said. “We went 2-1 against Wisconsin and Colorado State, and I thought we competed hard both games against Texas, with a number of players stepping up with big performances, so we’re really excited about what the season ahead.”
After a week off, the Bears (2-3) will open the home portion of their 2011 schedule with a March 3 contest against SIU Edwardsville. Game time is set for 4 p.m. at Killian Softball Stadium.