Softball Bears Cruise Past Indiana State in Series Opener, 6-1



TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The Missouri State softball team passed its first Missouri Valley Conference road test of the season with flying colors Saturday, as the Bears coasted to a 6-1 victory over Indiana State at Price Field. The Bears pounded out 11 hits and got another complete-game effort in circle from junior right-hander Natalie Rose to improve to 3-1 in conference play.

Rose (7-9) allowed just four hits and a single unearned run while striking-out six Sycamores in her fifth straight outing without allowing an earned run.

Led by Kirstin Cutter's career day at the plate, a rejuvenated Bears' offense posted its first double-digit hit total since March 6. Missouri State's sophomore shortstop posted career highs for hits (3), runs scored (3) and stolen bases (2), and combined with No. 2 hitter Tyler Porter to go 5-for-7 with three runs batted-in on the afternoon.

In all, Missouri State equaled or surpassed season highs for hits (11), stolen bases (5) and extra-base hits (5).

The Bears wasted no time in seizing the upper hand, plating two runs in the top of the first. Cutter led-off the game with a base hit to left, then swiped second to set up the rally. After Porter moved Cutter to third with a sacrifice bunt, Jenna Schwark coaxed a base on balls from ISU starter Kristen Felker to put runners on the corners with one out. MSU's aggressive baserunning netted the first run of the day, when Schwark and Cutter pulled off a double steal to make it a 1-0 game. Ashley Knehans then came through with a single up the middle to drive home Schwark from second for a two-run MSU advantage.

After a 1-2-3 bottom of the first from Rose, Missouri State struck for a pair of two-out runs in the second to extend its lead to 4-0. Back-to-back triples by Ashley Brentz and Cutter resulted in the first tally of the frame, and Porter floated a soft liner that settled into the grass in shallow left-center to bring in the second run.

Meanwhile, Rose did her part in the circle, retiring the first seven Sycamore hitters of the afternoon before Alex Lucas registered the first Indiana State hit of the game with one out in the third.

It would take a Missouri State fielding error for ISU to finally break the scoring seal in the fourth. Stephanie Robinson led-off the inning with what appeared to be a routine pop-up to shortstop, but Cutter couldn't squeeze it, opening the door for the Sycamores' first scoring opportunity of the day. After getting Alyssa Marcum on a fly ball to right for the first out, Rose surrendered a run-scoring double to Bailey Wittenauer that finally put the Sycamores on the board.

Stephanie Jonson followed with a single to left to set up a first-and-third, one-out situation, but Rose avoided further damage by striking-out Hailey Tinsman on three pitches and getting Mackenzie Connelly on a grounder to third.

The Bears tacked on single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to grab a 6-1 lead, and Rose slammed the door shut by allowing just one hit over the final three innings.

Up next, Missouri State (12-11, 3-1 MVC) will wrap up its series with the Sycamores (9-13, 0-4 MVC) with a doubleheader Sunday (March 27) beginning at 11 a.m., weather permitting.




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