Late Homer Dooms Bears in 1-0 Loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State
SPRINGFIELD -- Megan Castle's lead-off home run in the top of the seventh inning gave 12th-ranked Oklahoma State just enough offense to get past the Missouri State Bears with a 1-0 decision Thursday evening at Killian Stadium. OSU's Kat Espinosa turned in a four-hit shutout to hand the Cowgirls their second one-run victory over MSU in 10 days.
Castle belted Lauren Supak's 0-1 offering over the leftfield fence, giving OSU just its third hit of the afternoon against MSU's senior right-hander. More importantly, however, the solo shot would be the only offense of the game, overshadowing Supak's (5-5) effort against the Big 12-leading Cowgirls. She would allow just four hits in all, striking out three hitters while allowing three walks.
Espinosa allowed just four singles and struck-out nine batters in the complete game effort, picking up her 13th victory of the season while helping OSU, which bested MSU by a 3-2 score on March 30, improve to 34-7 on the season.
Both starting pitchers were in control early, yielding just one hit apiece through the first three innings of the contest. Supak sat down eight straight batters after Mariah Gearhart came up with a bunt single to lead off the game, while Espinosa retired the first six Bears of the game before Madison Hargrove started the third inning with a solid single to left field.
The Bears would mount a serious threat in the third, as Stevie Pierce moved Hargrove over with a sacrifice bunt, and Christa Gammon coaxed a two-out walk to put runners on first and second. But Espinosa worked her way out of the jam by getting Kirstin Cutter on a called third strike to end the inning.
OSU saw its best scoring opportunity go by the wayside as well. After Julie Ward singled to lead-off the fourth, Katie Asher swung and missed at a third strike, but the ball escaped Hargrove's glove, allowing Ward to move into scoring position on a passed ball. Castle then hit a sharp ground ball that Gammon could not glove at second, setting up a first-and-third, one-out situation. Ashley Boyd followed with a fly ball to left, and Ward appeared to score the first run of the contest after tagging at third. MSU head coach Holly Hesse appealed the call and Ward was ruled to have left the bag ahead of the catch, negating the run and ending the inning.
MSU got back-to-back hits from Cutter and Jenna Schwark with two out in the fifth, but Espinosa again worked her way out of trouble, getting Caitlin Chapin to pop up to first base to squash the threat.
Schwark led the Bears with two hits in three at-bats, while Hargrove and Cutter each contributed a hit to the MSU cause.
Up next, the Bears (11-19, 6-3) will begin a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series against Bradley with a noon doubleheader Saturday (April 10) at Killian Stadium.