UCA Uses Big Third Inning to Outlast Bears, 9-8



DENTON, Texas -- Despite posting a season-high eight runs Sunday (Feb. 22), the Missouri State softball team couldn’t overcome a seven-run third inning by Central Arkansas, and saw its three-game win streak come to an end in a 9-8 setback at the North Texas Sleep Inn Classic.

MSU, which dropped to 5-5 on the season, scored in each of the first three innings before the Bears of UCA erupted for seven runs to turn a 4-2 deficit into a five-run lead. After RBI-doubles from Paige Burke, Rachel Baucom and Kasey Britt, UCA plated four unearned runs with two out in the inning to build just enough of a lead to hold off the Bears. Caitlin Tolan delivered the big blow for UCA, driving in two runs with a single to left field in her only at-bat of the afternoon.

The key scoring rally came after the MSU offense had struck early to build a three-run lead. Christa Gammon got the game underway with a lead-off inside-the-park home run--the first of her MSU career--off UCA starter Holli Hill. Two batters later, Ashley Knehans belted her first long ball of the season, a solo shot to left that made it a 2-0 game.

Missouri State added another run in the top of the second to make it a three-run contest. With two out, Brooke Kempker was hit by a Hill offering, stole second and came around on a Gammon single.

UCA got on the board in the bottom half of the second on Britt’s two-run homer off Lauren McGinley.

The Bears stretched their lead back to two runs in the top of the third. Jessie Smith, who went 3-for-4 on the day, scored MSU’s fourth run of the contest on an error by the UCA right fielder after a Knehans single. Smith singled to lead-off the inning, then swiped second base for her third steal in as many games to set up the scoring opportunity.

Missouri State was able to close the gap late in the contest, getting a two-out, RBI-single in the seventh from Jenna Schwark, followed by a two-run homer from Jen Carr to pull to trim the UCA lead to one run.

But UCA’s Kelly Martino (3-3) retired Taylor Farley for the final out to preserve the victory, which was the Bears’ first over MSU in six meetings in the series.

Rose (2-2) suffered the loss for MSU after allowing six runs, just two of which were earned--in 2/3 of an inning in relief of McGinley. Lauren Supak provided a bright spot for the Bears’ pitching staff, working 3.1 innings of scoreless relief.

Gammon had three hits, scored a pair of runs and drove in two more to lead the MSU offensive charge. Smith capped a huge weekend that saw her go 9-for-17 (.529) by extending her hitting streak to 11 games. Arbon, Schwark and Smith all earned all-tournament honors for the Bears. 

Missouri State will be back in action Friday (Feb. 27) at the Frost Classic in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Bears will square off against Valparaiso at 11:30 a.m. (CST) and Tennessee Tech at 4:30 p.m. on day one of the tournament.



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