Porche, six-run fifth propel Bears past Illinois State
The Missouri State softball team’s two-out, six-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning broke up a scoreless duel and sent the Bears to a 6-0 victory in their series finale against Illinois State Saturday (March 22) at MSU Softball Field in Springfield. Senior third baseman Michelle Armentrout doubled home three runs to highlight the decisive frame, and senior pitcher Melissa Porche was dominant on the mound once again, striking out 11 Redbirds to notch her eighth win of the year.
Porche (8-3), who fanned 14 Illinois State batters in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, struck out the side in the top of the first Saturday and retired 16 of the first 17 batters she faced in all to give Missouri State’s offense time to click. She limited ISU to just two hits on the afternoon in her eighth complete game and third shutout of the season.
Illinois State’s Rachel Smith followed up a two-hit shutout on Friday with four more shutout innings to start Saturday’s game. But MSU’s offense finally shook off the rust in the fifth, putting the first two batters on via an infield single from Jana Shewmaker and a fielder’s choice on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Jenna Schwark. Following a Jen Carr sacrifice, Smith issued an intentional walk to pinch hitter Ashley Knehans to load the bases. The Redbirds’ strategy paid off initially when Tyler Porter slapped a grounder to Kara Nelson at third who promptly threw home to retire the lead runner for the second out. But Christa Gammon drew a four-pitch walk to drive home Schwark with the game’s first run, and Armentrout blasted a bases-clearing double to right-center field to break the contest wide open.
Junior shortstop Jessie Smith capped the scoring with a two-run blast over the centerfield fence for her first homer of the season and the 16th of her Missouri State career, moving her into a tie for fourth-place on the Bears’ all-time home run list.
The Redbirds (11-12 overall, 1-2 MVC) threatened in the top of the sixth when they put runners on second and third with one out. But Porche got Tiffany Prager to line to Armentrout at third, who easily doubled-off Katie Mathis at third to end the inning.
Porche retired the side in order in the seventh to lock up her 49th career victory at Missouri State. The win moved the Buena Park, Calif., native into a tie with Shannon Buslepp for third on MSU’s career victory list.
Smith (3-2) was tagged with the loss for the Redbirds after giving up five runs on three hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Next up for the Bears (14-5 overall, 3-2 MVC) will be a Tuesday (March 25) road tilt against Wichita State. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m. at Wilkins Stadium in Wichita, Kan.