Redbirds Dominate Bears in Doubleheader Sweep
NORMAL, Ill. -- Illinois State used the combination of timely hitting and strong starting pitching to shut-down the Missouri State softball team, sweeping the two clubs’ Saturday afternoon doubleheader by scores of 5-2 and 8-0 in Missouri Valley Conference action at Marian Kneer Stadium. The Redbirds bombed MSU pitching for five home runs on the afternoon, while Megan Warner and Jordan Birch turned in complete-game performances in the circle to help ISU improve to 5-1 in MVC play and 18-11 overall.
It was freshman Laura Canopy delivering the key blow in game one, however, belting a one-out three-run homer to straight-away center field in the bottom of the fourth inning to give Warner (7-5) all the run support she would need. ISU’s junior right-hander scattered seven hits while fanning six Bears in a complete-game effort. She would hold Missouri State scoreless through the first five innings before Christa Gammon’s RBI ground-out in the top of the sixth plated the Bears’ first run of the day.
Missouri State squandered a golden opportunity to put a least one run on the board in the top of the third inning after putting its first two batters on base. Ninth-place hitter Raeven Replogle drew a lead-off walk and stole second base, and Kirstin Cutter beat out an infield single then moved up to second on a passed ball to set the table for the heart of the Bears’ order. But MSU’s senior trio of Tyler Porter, Jenna Schwark and Ashley Knehans could not produce a run against Warner. Porter swung and missed at a third strike for out number one, and both Schwark and Knehans tapped out to third to squash the rally.
ISU finally broke through in the fourth after Abby Olson drew a leadoff walk, and Liz Andrews blooped a single to right to kick things off. MSU starter Natalie Rose got Elizabeth Kay to chase a third strike for the first out of the inning, but Canopy got ahold of a 2-2 offering and lofted it into a stiff breeze that carried it over the center field fence for a 3-0 Redbird lead.
The home team tacked on another run in the fifth, as Kay drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk to force home the Redbirds’ fourth run of the game. Jhavon Hamilton then capped the scoring for ISU with the first of her two homers on the day in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 5-1 contest.
The Bears (13-13, 4-3 MVC) scratched out a seventh-inning run when Replogle belted a one-out double off the right-center field wall, then came home on a Porter infield single.
Rose (8-10) was saddled with the loss after surrendering all five ISU runs, despite matching a season high with nine strikeouts. Canopy’s three-run homer snapped a string of six straight outings without allowing a single earned run for the junior right-hander.
Illinois State jumped on top in game two as well, scoring a pair of runs in the first three innings to take command. The Redbirds took advantage of some shaky MSU defense in the bottom of the first inning to plate an unearned run. With one out, Lauren Kellar reached base via a Gammon throwing error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then moved over to third on a passed ball. MSU starter Savannah Wiggins (5-2) issued ball four to Olson, but the pitch got by Chapin behind the plate to allow Kellar to come home with the first run of the game.
That would prove to be an omen of things to follow, as ISU got a third-inning homer from Olson to push its lead to 2-0, before exploding for four runs in the fourth. The Redbirds’ big inning was fueled, once again, by a Bear miscue, as Nichelle Harrison bounced a slow roller to short that Cutter couldn’t handle to set up the scoring rally. Kellar delivered the key hit, driving in two with a bases-loaded double off the left field wall, and Olson followed with a two-run single up the middle to stretch the ISU advantge to 6-0.
Birch (8-1) made sure the lead stood, striking out a season-high 10 batters while allowing just four hits in winning her sixth straight decision.
The Redbirds closed out the sweep with two more long balls in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Sara Bradley connected for her third dinger of the season, and Hamilton went deep once again to end the game.
Wiggins, who went 2-for-2 at the plate, allowed eight hits and gave up all eight (six earned) ISU runs to suffer her first career loss as a starter.
Up next, the Bears and Redbirds will conclude their three-game set Sunday afternoon with a single contest set to begin at noon.