Redbirds Rally to Complete Series Sweep of Bears
NORMAL, Ill. -- Illinois State rallied late and capitalized on three Missouri State errors to claim a 7-2 decision that completed a three-game sweep of the Bears Sunday afternoon at Marian Kneer Stadium. Elizabeth Kay drove in three runs for ISU, including a two-run single that capped a three-run fifth-inning rally, as the Redbirds tallied six of their seven runs in their last two at-bats.
In addition to Kay's 2-for-4 day at the plate, Kara Nelson went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, while Lauren Kellar scored a pair of runs and stole two bases to lead the Redbirds' offensive attack. Freshman Taylor Baxter (4-3) picked up the victory in relief, working four shutout innings.
With MSU starter Natalie Rose in control and the Bears holding a one-run lead, the Redbirds mounted their game-changing rally thanks to a series of well-placed hits in the fifth. Jhavon Hamilton and Nelson started the inning with a pair of hard grounders that the Bears could not make a play on. Kellar followed with a bouncing ball to short that ticked off the end of Kirstin Cutter's glove to allow Hamilton to cross the plate with the tying run.
After Kellar stole second for her second steal of the day, Rose fanned Abby Olson for the first out of the inning. But Kay came up with her second run-scoring hit of the day, drilling a single to left that chased home Nelson and Kellar to stake ISU to a 4-2 advantage.
The Redbirds (19-11, 6-1 MVC) would break the game open with three more runs in the sixth, highlighted by Nelson's two-run single. Baxter would not need the added support, as the right-hander allowed just two hits and struck-out two to close out the game.
Illinois State struck first, plating a single tally in the bottom of the first inning with the aid of a Missouri State miscue. With one out, Rose got Lauren Kellar to swing and miss at a third strike, but catcher Caitlin Chapin couldn't squeeze the pitch, allowing the Redbirds center fielder to reach first base. After Kellar swiped second base, Rose retired Abby Olson on a pop-up for out number two, but Elizabeth Kay came through for ISU, blooping a run-scoring single to shallow center field for a 1-0 Redbird lead.
Missouri State didn't waste any time in answering Illinois State's score, as the Bears got a two-run homer from Ashley Knehans in the top of the second to grab their first lead of the series. Chapin got the ball rolling with a lead-off base hit to left before Knehans belted Jordan Birch's 1-0 offering over the wall in left for her first home run of the season and a 2-1 MSU lead.
But the wheels came off in the fifth, tagging Rose (8-11) with the tough-luck loss despite a performance that saw the junior allow just two earned runs on six hits over her five innings of work.
The Bears' three errors on the day represented a season high, and the Redbirds' four steals marked a single-game high for a Missouri State opponent this season.
The Bears (13-14, 4-4 MVC) will be back in action Tuesday (April 5) when they begin a two-game road trip with a 5 p.m. contest at No. 19 Oklahoma State.