Illinois State Dominant in Doubleheader Sweep of Bears
SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois State pounded out 23 hits, including seven home runs, to sweep a Missouri Valley Conference softball doubleheader from the Missouri State Bears and move into sole possession of first place in the league’s regular-season standings Sunday afternoon at Killian Stadium. The Redbirds scored in four straight innings to claim a 7-3 victory in game one, then erupted for nine runs over the final two innings of the nightcap to turn a one-run affair into an 11-1 win.
Illinois State’s dominant all-around performance in game two included an NCAA Division I record-tying four consecutive home runs in the top of the sixth inning, as well as a triple play in the bottom half of the same frame.
MSU’s Natalie Rose and ISU’s Jordan Birch allowed just six hits combined through the first five innings of game two before the Redbird offense came to life. Abby Olson got ISU on the board with a mammoth two-run homer to left in the top of the fourth inning to hand the visitors a 2-0 lead. That would serve as a preview of things to come, as Olson led-off the top of the sixth with another long blast that left the yard in left-center to kick off a string of four straight homers for the Redbirds. Elizabeth Kay, Michelle Henderson and Niki Stansell each followed with solo shots of their own-all to leftfield-to turn a 2-1 game into a 6-1 Redbird advantage.
Keyed by Beth Current’s grand slam, ISU scored five more times in the top of the seventh inning to put the game out of reach.
Olson and Current each totaled four runs batted-in for ISU in the game two romp, and Jhavon Hamilton went 3-for-4 to finish the twin bill with five hits in her eight at-bats.
Birch completed the game in the circle for ISU, allowing just one earned run on four hits to improve to 14-6 on the year.
The victory in game two followed a game one effort that saw the Redbirds (27-14, 15-3 MVC) build a six-run lead through the middle innings. ISU tarting pitcher Megan Warner kept Missouri State off-balance for most of the game, allowing ISU ample time to gain control of the contest. The sophomore right-hander retired the first nine batters of the game and wouldn’t allow a hit until Ashley Knehans’ one-out double in the fifth inning.
Illinois State took control of the game with three-straight two-run innings to build a 6-0 advantage. With one out in the top of the third inning, Kara Nelson and Hamilton recorded back-to-back infield singles and Olson drew a walk to set up ISU’s scoring rally. MSU starter Lauren Supak nearly worked out of the jam, getting Kay to chase a third strike for out number two, but Henderson lined a hard single to center to push home Nelson and Hamilton with the contest’s first two runs.
The Redbirds struck again in the fourth, taking advantage of four walks and a hit batsman to plate two more runs without the aid of a single hit. Hamilton’s RBI ground-out brought home ISU’s third run, and Kay coaxed a two-out, bases-loaded walk to force home Lauren Kellar for a 4-0 Redbird lead.
ISU pounded out five hits in the fifth inning, with the key blow coming from Jessica Roache, who delivered a two-out, two-run homer to leftfield to extend the Redbird margin to six runs.
Missouri State finally broke the scoring seal in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Jenna Schwark and Caitlin Chapin sparked a two-out rally with back-to-back singles. A fielding error Stansell at short brought MSU’s first run to the plate and kept the inning alive, and Knehans made the visitors pay with a hard-hit, two-run double into the leftfield corner to pull MSU to within four runs.
Henderson led ISU’s 12-hit attack by going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, while Nelson, Hamilton and Stansell each posted two-hit games for the Redbirds.
Warner (11-7) earned the victory with a complete-game effort, allowing just three unearned runs and five hits total.
Up next, Missouri State (14-27, 9-10 MVC) will host Arkansas in a mid-week non-conference match-up Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Killian.