Bears Split with Redbirds to Remain at .500 Mark in MVC Play
NORMAL, Ill. -- The Missouri State softball team earned a doubleheader split with the Illinois State Redbirds Saturday (April 4) at Marian Kneer Softball Stadium, pulling out a 3-2 victory in eight innings in game one before ISU used a pair of big innings to salvage the second game by a 7-2 score. After splitting the first two games of their three-game set, the Bears and Redbirds remain deadlocked at 5-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference race.
The Bears took advantage of five Illinois State errors to claim an extra-inning win in game one. MSU plated single runs in the second and third innings on just two hits, capitalizing on two costly Redbird miscues to seize a two-run advantage.
ISU cut the lead in half in the sixth on Jessie Buker’s lead-off solo shot to left off Bears starter Lauren Supak. The Redbirds’ first hitter in the seventh also came up big, as Niki Stansell tripled to right, then came home with the tying run on Ashley Arbon’s throwing error.
But MSU rebounded quickly, as Jen Carr led off the eighth with a hard-hit single off ISU pitcher Chris Burton to start the decisive frame. Stansell committed the fourth ISU error while trying to record the force out on a grounder to short by Jana Shewmaker, giving MSU a two-on, no-out scoring opportunity. After Ashley Knehans’ sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, it was another Redbird error brought home the go-ahead run. Raeven Replogle’s ground ball to second was mishandled by Diciembre Vaca, allowing pinch-runner Bubba Weiss to score what would ultimately be the game-winning run.
Lauren McGinley worked two scoreless innings of relief to earn her ninth win of the season. Supak was also solid in the circle for the Bears, allowing just one earned run on six hits in six innings.
Game two got off to a promising start for Missouri State as well, with the Bears scoring two more unearned runs in the top of the first. With one out, Jessie Smith followed a Christa Gammon single up the middle with a double to left. Stansell’s relay throw was off the mark, allowing Gammon to come around for the first run of the game. After ISU starter Jordan Birch got Carr to chase strike three for the second out, a passed ball by catcher Casey Gorrell brought home Smith moments later to stretch the MSU lead to 2-0.
Illinois State struck for four runs in the bottom of the second, beginning its momentum-shifting rally with two outs and no one on base. Katie Mathis started the rally with an infield single, and Jenna Schwark’s error on a Vaca grounder kept the threat alive. After McGinley issued a walk to Beth Current, Stansell and Gorrell made amends for their earlier miscues by delivering back-to-back two-run singles to put ISU in front 4-2.
The Redbirds (17-15) added three more tallies in the fifth, as Stansell and Gorrell made the Bears pay again with back-to-back home runs to start the inning. ISU then recorded three straight hits to load the bases before a Supak wild pitch allowed pinch-runner Jessica Roach to cross the plate with the home team’s seventh run of the game.
Given a comfortable cushion, Birch settled into a groove and never gave the Bears an opportunity to threaten the lead. The freshman would retire 14 of the final 15 batters of the game--including eight straight at one point--and fanned nine Bears in the three-hit, complete-game effort to improve to 9-6 on the season.
McGinley (9-5) suffered the loss for Missouri State, giving up four unearned runs on four hits in her 1 2/3 innings of work. Gammon was the only Bear to record multiple hits in either game, going 2-for-2 with a run scored.
With the loss, the Bears dropped to 15-14 overall and fell back into a tie with the Redbirds for the sixth spot in The Valley standings.
Next up, the Bears and Redbirds will complete their series with a single game Sunday (April 5) at noon.