Softball Bears Sweep Twin Bill, Take Series Win from Evansville
EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- A day after watching a late lead slip away in its series opener with Evansville, the Missouri State softball team mounted a seventh-inning rally of its own that sparked a doubleheader sweep of the Purple Aces Saturday at Cooper Stadium. The Bears scored six times in their final at-bat in game one to post a 14-10 victory, then pounded out 11 hits in a 6-2 win in the nightcap to take the series.
Missouri State turned in one of its best offensive efforts of the season, scoring 20 runs on 25 hits, and got the pitching it needed late to improve to 3-3 in Missouri Valley Conference play and 8-17 overall.
In game one, the Bears rallied from a 10-8 deficit with a six-run outburst in the top of the seventh inning to come away with the victory. After Evansville scored nine times in the bottom of the sixth to erase an 8-1 MSU lead, the Bears got key run-scoring hits from Ashley Knehans and Lauren Eisenreich to reclaim the lead. Eisenreich's one-out, two-run double to right-centerfield plated the tying and go-ahead runs, and MSU capitalized on a pair of UE fielding errors to expand its lead to four runs.
Lauren Supak shut down the Evansville (7-14, 2-5 MVC) offense in the bottom of the seventh to notch her third straight victory. Christa Gammon, meanwhile, sparked the MSU offense, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and a pair of steals. Gammon reached base and scored in each of her five plate appearances to register the highest single-game run total for a Bear since at least the 1997 season when the school began logging individual game highs.
Supak came on in the sixth in relief of Lauren McGinley, who held the Purple Aces to just one run on four hits through the first five innings. UE got its offense rolling with hits by Maggie Little and Allison Aguilera to start the sixth inning, then got a two-run double from Tamara Robey and a three-run homer from Krista Price in back-to-back at-bats to pull to within 8-6. Amy Gaertner added an RBI single to make it a one-run game. Next, Aguilera came through with her second hit of the frame to score Jennifer Stahlhut and knot the score. The Aces then got a big break on a Alicia Betancur grounder to short when Kirstin Cutter fired wide of the bag to allow both Aguilera and Gaertner to come around and give UE a 10-8 lead.
UE's comeback marked the second straight late-inning rally for the Purple Aces, who came from behind in Friday's 5-4 series-opening victory by scoring four two-out runs after the Bears had taken a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.
Led by Gammon's career game at the plate, the Bears built their seven-run advantage Saturday with a quartet of two-run innings. MSU plated two runs in the first after Gammon led-off the game with a double, moved to second on Tyler Porter's fielder's choice and came home when UE catcher Halie Malone misfired to third on a double-steal attempt. Caitlin Chapin added a run-scoring single two batters later to give the Bears an early 2-0 lead.
Evansville answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the first, but the Bears came right back with a Jenna Schwark two-run homer in the third to expand their lead to 4-1.
MSU struck again in the fourth, as back-to-back singles from Gammon and Porter produced two more runs. Gammon came through again in the sixth with an RBI double, and Chapin drove in her second run of the game with a single to right to push the lead to 8-1.
Game two again saw Missouri State bounce out to an early lead, getting an Ashley Knehans two-run homer and a Gammon RBI double in the top of the second to build a 3-0 advantage. The Bears added to their lead in the fourth when Eisenreich went deep for her first career home run off UE starter Kendall Kautz. MSU tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh, getting a run-scoring single from Delayna Gary and an RBI double from Chapin.
This time the MSU pitching didn't waver late in the contest, as Supak (4-4) turned in another strong performance, allowing just one run on five hits over 4.0 innings to earn her fourth win of the week. Natalie Rose did her part as well, coming on in relief in the fifth to strike-out five straight Purple Aces before Price led-off the seventh inning with her second homer of the day to pull UE to within four runs.
Rose would close out the victory, however, fanning the last two hitters to finish with seven punchouts in 3.0 innings to earn her first save as a Bear.
The Bears' freshman trio of Chapin, Cutter and Madison Hargrove paced the Missouri State offensive attack, recording two hits apiece in the game two victory.
The Bears continue a string of eight consecutive road games Tuesday (March 30) when they head to Stillwater, Okla., to take on 15th-ranked Oklahoma State in a 5 p.m. contest.