Rutgers Coasts to Doubleheader Sweep of Softball Bears
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Rutgers used a pair of standout pitching performances and a 24-hit barrage to bury the Missouri State softball team in a doubleheader sweep of the Bears Thursday evening at Killian Softball Stadium. The Scarlet Knights got complete-game efforts from Nicole Lindley and Holly Johnson, and took advantage of several MSU errors to come away with a 5-1 victory in game one and a 12-1 decision in the nightcap.
Lindley kept the Bears’ offense in check throughout the opener, limiting Missouri State to just one run on six hits over her seven innings of work. She would fan eight batters in all and strand 10 of 11 MSU baserunners to earn her fourth victory of the season.
Rutgers struck for three runs in the top of the first inning, capitalizing on a two-out Missouri State error to take the early lead. After Missouri State starter Natalie Rose retired the first two hitters of the contest on ground-outs, Brittney Lindley singled to left, before Mikelyn Messina hit a slow roller that MSU third baseman Bubba Weiss couldn’t handle. Mandy Craig made the Bears pay by depositing Rose’s 1-0 offering over the right field fence for a three-run homer.
Missouri State got on the board in the bottom of the second courtesy of Christa Gammon’s two-out single through the right side that brought home Lauren Eisenreich.
The Scarlet Knights added to their lead in the third thanks once again to an MSU miscue. Lindley singled for the second time to start the inning, then scored when catcher Madison Hargrove’s pick-off attempt sailed wide of the third-base bag. Rutgers would tack on an insurance run in the top of the seventh on Lindley’s third hit of the game-this time an RBI single to right.
Gammon led the MSU offense with a pair of hits to go along with a walk and the lone RBI of the contest for the Bears. Rose (1-6) was saddled with the loss after allowing four unearned runs and five total in three innings of work.
In game two, Rutgers benefitted once again from a couple of MSU errors to gain the upper hand early in the contest. With one out in the top of the second, Jennifer Meinheit lined a double into the right-center field gap off Bears’ starting pitcher Lauren McGinley. A fielding error on shortstop Caitlin Chapin put runners at the corners, and Lindsey Curran laid down a sacrifice bunt that allowed Meinheit to cross the plate. Ashley Bragg followed with a grounder to third that Weiss fielded cleanly, but fired wide of first base to chase home Mickinzie Alden with the second RU run of the game.
Continuing with the theme of the day, the Bears broke into the scoring column via a Tyler Porter bunt single that Johnson tossed into right field to allow Raeven Replogle to come all the way around from first base with MSU’s first run of the game. Porter attempted to score when the ball rolled into the corner, but Craig received the throw from Curran in right and relayed a strike to the plate in time to catch the MSU junior for the third out of the inning.
After Bragg’s RBI double netted the visitors a third run in the top of the sixth, the Bears threatened once again in the bottom half of the frame. Alaina Burkhart doubled to spark the rally attempt, and Jenna Schwark singled and advanced to second on the throw to put two runners in scoring position with just one out.
However, Johnson (3-3) got pinch hitter Taylor Farley to chase a third strike, then retired Chapin on a long fly ball to left to preserve the Scarlet Knights’ two-run lead.
From there, Rutgers erased any doubts about the outcome by scoring nine times in the top of the seventh. The Scarlet Knights’ (9-14) first nine hitters reached base and ultimately scored to turn a 3-1 game into an 11-run margin.
Johnson would give up just five hits in all and strike out seven Bears while allowing just the one unearned run in the fifth.
Missouri State will be back in action Friday (March 19) at Killian when they open the Missouri Valley Conference season with a doubleheader against Southern Illinois at 5 p.m.