Softball Bears Drop a Pair on Final Day of SLU Tournament



ST. LOUIS -- The Missouri State softball team came up short in a pair of contests Sunday, falling to No. 18 Missouri by an 11-0 score before suffering a heartbreaking 7-6 setback to Saint Louis in eight innings to conclude play at the SLU Breast Cancer Tournament.

Mizzou right-hander Chelsea Thomas was perfect through six innings of game one, fanning 15 of the 18 Bears hitters she faced, and Marla Schweisberger drove in six runs with a 4-for-4 day at the plate for the Tigers (10-3). The no-hitter for Thomas was her second in three seasons against MSU and the marked the 17th thrown against the Bears in the 43-year history of the program.

Missouri jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, getting a two-out RBI triple from Ashley Fleming in the bottom of the first. That would prove to be just the beginning, as the Tigers pounded out nine hits off MSU starter Natalie Rose over the first three innings. MU added three runs in the third, highlighted by a Jenna Marston homer, and a two-run single by Schweisberger that made it a 4-0 contest.

Meanwhile, Thomas was holding the Bears' bats in check, recording 10 straight strikeouts from the first through the fourth innings. After Stevie Pierce broke up the string of K's with a ground out to end the fourth, Thomas promptly fanned the final five hitters of the game.

Mizzou put the finishing touches on the rout with a five-run sixth inning that was capped by Schweisberger's one-out, game-clinching grand slam off freshman reliever Jourdan Esquenazi.

Rose (2-4) shouldered the loss for the Bears after allowing six runs on 13 hits over five innings.

With Thomas out of the picture for their game two match-up with host Saint Louis, the Bears finally found their offensive groove late in the day to rally from a two-run deficit and force the extra inning.

The two clubs played to a 1-1 tie through four innings before the Billikens struck for two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Kristin Nicoletti got the ball rolling with an RBI-triple that plated Jessica Buschjost, who singled and stole second to start the rally. Kerri Dockins followed with a sacrifice fly to left to drive in Nicoletti and give the home team a 3-1 advantage.

MSU came right back with a two-spot of its own in the top half of the sixth to even the score. Christa Gammon singled to lead things off, and Pierce doubled to left to give the Bears a pair of runners in scoring position with nobody out. Caitlin Chapin hit a sac fly to center to score Gammon, and Ashley Knehans delivered a run-scoring hit to center to tie it up and ultimately force extra frames after the Billikens left a pair of runners on base without scoring in both the sixth and seventh innings.

The Bears appeared to have turned the tide for good in the top of the eighth, when Gammon singled home Tyler Porter to give MSU the lead, and Knehans extended the margin to 6-3 with a two-out, two-run triple--her first three-base hit in 145 career games as a Bear.

But the Billikens (12-5) responded in the decisive bottom half of the eighth to steal the game. After SLU loaded the bases with one out against MSU freshman Savannah Wiggins, Alyson Brand drew a walk to force in a run and cut the deficit to 6-4. Wiggins retired the next batter, Kristain Burger, on a pop up to bring the Bears to within one out of victory.

Rachel Faletto came through for the hosts, however, belting a double to center to clear the bases and hand the Billikens a come-from-behind 7-6 win.

Wiggins (1-1) suffered the loss after allowing all seven SLU runs on 12 hits over 6.2 innings.

Knehans recorded three hits and drove in three runs for the Bears, who pounded out 11 hits in all. Gammon also went 3-for-4 and scored a pair of runs, while Jenna Schwark and Pierce each added two hits.

The Bears (3-6) will be back in action Wednesday (March 9) when they travel to Denton, Texas, for a 4 p.m. double-header against North Texas.




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