Softball Bears' Late Rallies Result in Opening Day Sweep at Frost Classic



CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- The Missouri State softball team struck it big when it mattered most Friday (Feb. 27), scoring a pair of victories in their last at-bat on the opening day of the Frost Classic. Jessie Smith’s lead-off homer in the bottom of the seventh propelled the Bears to a 7-6 win over Valparaiso in MSU’s tourney opener, and Jenna Schwark’s two-run shot highlighted a four-run ninth inning that led to a 4-0 victory over Tennessee Tech in the nightcap.


Schwark’s homer was her first of the season and put the finishing touches on a day that saw her go 4-for-7, score three runs and drive home four more. Lauren McGinley, who turned in a complete-game, four-hit shutout in the win over Tennessee Tech, earned victories in both contests to improve to 4-1 on the season.


Smith’s walk-off blast off Stephanie Kelly in the seventh inning completed the Bears’ come-from-behind victory over a Valparaiso team that wouldn’t trail MSU until the final pitch of the game.


The home run for Smith was her second of the day and her MSU-record-breaking 23rd as a Bear. She also led-off the bottom of the sixth with a long ball to start a four-run MSU rally that would result in the Bears wiping out a 6-2 Valpo lead by the end of the frame. After Smith’s solo shot to center field off Sam McGee, Ashley Knehans and Jana Shewmaker drew back-to-back walks, and Schwark chased them home with a double to right-center to make it a one-run contest. The Bears weren’t done, as Taylor Farley's single to center brought in Schwark with the tying run.


VU (0-1) led throughout the game, grabbing an early 3-0 advantage in the top of the first inning against MSU starter Lauren Supak. The Crusaders, who registered five hits in the inning, got an RBI-double from Ashley Wolter and run-scoring singles from Jordan Rutkowski and Jill Jacobson to seize the early advantage.


The Bears countered with single tallies in the second and fifth innings, but Valpo appeared to have the game in hand after a three-run sixth inning, highlighted by Karen Korb’s two-out, two-run single.


McGinley came on to record the final two outs of the top of the seventh to qualify for the victory. She replaced Natalie Rose, who worked six solid innings in relief of Supak, striking out seven Crusaders.


In game two, McGinley would play an even larger role in the Bears’ fortunes. The junior completed her second shutout of the season and her second extra-innings complete-game effort. She limited the Golden Eagles to just four singles, only one of which came after the fourth inning.


Neither team threatened to put any runs on the board until the top of the fifth, when the Bears advanced runners to second and third with two out before Tennessee Tech starting pitcher Holly Thomas struck-out Christa Gammon to end the inning.


Tennessee Tech’s best scoring opportunity came in the eighth, when, under tiebreaker rules, Lacie Coquerille moved Cassidy Skeen over to third on a sacrifice bunt. With two out, Thomas drew a walk, but McGinley coaxed a line-out from Katie Betry to squash the threat.


The Bears, who improved to 7-5 on the season, rode that momentum to produce the game-clinching rally, started by a wild pitch that allowed Ashley Arbon to advance to third with nobody out. Smith then walked and Knehans drove home what would prove to be the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to left. After a Smith steal of second and another wild pitch, Farley delivered the second run of the frame with a single to right before Schwark’s homer off reliever Kristina Hortert sealed the Golden Eagles’ (6-10) fate.


Missouri State is back in action Saturday (Feb. 28) when takes on Sacred Heart in a 9 a.m. contest and Tennessee-Martin at 4:30 p.m. on day two of the Frost Classic.

Next up, Missouri State will close out the home portion of the schedule with a 2:05 p.m. match-up Sunday (March 1) against Southern Illinois.



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