Bears Conclude Perfect Week with Doubleheader Sweep of Bradley
PEORIA, Ill. - The Missouri State softball team finished off a three-game Missouri Valley Conference sweep of Bradley Sunday afternoon by taking both ends of the two clubs' doubleheader at Laura Bradley Park. The Bears (20-17, 8-6 MVC) claimed a 7-2 win in game one then topped the Braves by a 3-1 score in the second contest to wrap up a 5-0 week.
Missouri State scored all seven of its runs in the first three innings of the opener, but needed a two-run homer from Jenna Schwark--her first of the season--and another complete-game effort from Natalie Rose in the circle to pull out the victory in the nightcap and run its season-high win streak to five games.
After taking control of Saturday's series opener with a trio of big innings, the Bears kept the momentum going early in the first game Sunday as well, plating four runs in the top of the second inning against Braves' starter Lindsay Hufeld. With one out, Madison Hargrove's base hit to right produced the first two MSU runs of the afternoon after three of the first four Bears hitters reached base safely, and Christa Gammon crossed the plate with the third moments later on a double steal. Raeven Replogle drove in the final run of the frame with a fielder's choice grounder to second that gave Kerri Cunningham time to score from third.
The Bears kept the pressure on in the third, as Lauren Eisenreich's three-run home run blew the game wide open after Tyler Porter and Ashley Knehans singled to set the table.
Rose would hold the Braves in check through the first four innings, giving up just two hits before yielding to reliever Savannah Wiggins in the bottom of the fifth.
The Braves finally got on the board in the sixth on Jackie Roth's one-out homer to straight-away center field. BU would add another tally in the seventh against Jourdan Esquenazi, as KayCee Miller's RBI ground-out scored Heather Terry. The Braves would threaten to cut further into the MSU lead, loading the bases with two out to force head coach Holly Hesse to bring Rose back into the game to record the final out.
Hargrove and Knehans each went 2-for-3 to lead the MSU attack and complement Eisenreich's three RBIs in the opening-game victory.
In the nightcap, Rose (15-14) scattered eight hits and struck-out four to notch her fifth win in as many starts on the week. The junior right-hander worked out of bases-loaded jams in two different innings to keep the score knotted at 1-1 and set the stage for Schwark's heroics at the plate.
The Bears drew first blood for the third straight game against Bradley, taking a 1-0 lead on Porter's two-out single through the right side that brought home Kirstin Cutter with the game's first run.
It would be a short-lived lead, however, as the home team responded with a run in its half of the third to even things up. Maddie Lynch-Crumrine led-off the inning with an infield single, then came home on Brianne Joseph's base hit down the left field line.
Rose avoided further damage by retiring Roth on a fly ball to center to leave the bases full of Braves. The Bears' ace would work out of trouble again in the fifth, geting Roth and Kate Singler on back-to-back pitches to wiggle out of another bases-loaded jam after three straight Braves singled to initiate the rally.
In the top of the sixth, Schwark came through with the biggest blow of the game, lifting Lynch-Crumrine's 2-2 pitch down the left field line and just inside the foul pole with one out after Cutter delivered an infield single to start the inning.
Rose closed out the win by retiring six of the final seven batters she faced over the last two innings. Schwark finished the game 2-for-3, while Porter added two hits and Cutter scored a pair of runs.
Lynch-Crumrine (1-5) suffered the loss for the Braves (8-34, 1-13 MVC), despite allowing just six hits in a complete-game performance.
Up next, the Bears continue their eight-game road swing Wednesday (April 20) when they travel to Wichita State for a 3 p.m. doubleheader with the Shockers at Wilkins Stadium.