Drake Pitching, Defense Enough to Outlast Bears in Doubleheader Sweep
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Despite a pair of standout pitching performances, the Missouri State softball team dropped both ends of a Missouri Valley Conference doubleheader with Drake Saturday afternoon, falling 2-1 in 11 innings in the opener, before being shut-out, 2-0, in the nightcap. The Bulldogs rode the pitching of Jenna DeLong and Brynne Dordel to improve to 32-18 and 18-4 in MVC play, despite being out-hit by the Bears in the two contests.
Drake overcame the pitching of MSU junior Natalie Rose, who allowed just one earned run while striking out a total of 15 hitters in 12.2 innings over the two games. Rose teamed up with freshman Savannah Wiggins to hold the Bulldogs to four runs on 10 hits, but DU executed when it counted to stay alive in the race for the MVC regular-season title.
But it wasn't enough, as the visitors snapped a three-game losing streak with their game one victory, then relied on Dordel's performance and a pair of two-out Molly McClelland RBI singles in the second contest to complete the sweep.
The afternoon's first contest was dominated by the starting pitchers, as Rose and DeLong combined forces to throw every pitch of the 11-inning battle. In the end it would be DeLong (20-6) - who struck-out seven without allowing a single earned run - getting the victory, as Drake scratched out the game-winning run on Erin Mollohan's squeeze bunt in the top of the 11th inning.
After Rose fanned Amy Pierce to start the decisive frame, Torey Craddock delivered the key hit for the Bulldogs looping a liner into short right-center that got underneath the glove of Jenna Schwark for a double. A Craddock steal of third set the stage for Mollohan, who reached across the plate to lay down a bunt that gave Craddock plenty of time to score the go-ahead run.
The Bears mounted a comeback bid in the bottom half of the 11th, loading the bases courtesy of a pair of walks and Ashley Knehans' third hit of the ballgame. But DeLong got Madison Hargrove to sky the first pitch she saw to left for the final out of the marathon contest.
After both pitchers cruised through the first five innings, Missouri State finally broke the scoring seal by taking advantage of a one-out Bulldog fielding error in the bottom of the sixth to snap an 18-inning scoreless drought. Schwark's bouncer to third eluded the glove of Jordan Gronewold, and DeLong unloaded a wild pitch to allow Schwark to move into scoring position. Knehans didn't wait long to take advantage of the opportunity, lining the very next pitch into center to bring Schwark to the plate for a 1-0 Missouri State lead.
Down to their last three outs, the Bulldogs were able to send the contest into extra innings with a near-carbon copy of the Bears' scoring rally. Mollohan hit a routine one-hopper to Heather Duckworth at third, but the freshman's throw was well wide of the bag to give DU new life. Pinch-runner Macie Silliman swiped second base, and Nicole Randel knotted the score with an RBI single up the middle.
The Bears squandered a golden opportunity to win the game in the ninth after Knehans doubled to left-center field to lead off the inning. A Caitlin Chapin sacrifice moved the runner to third with one out, but a failed squeeze attempt thwarted the rally.
Rose (16-18) registered a career-high 14 strikeouts and allowed just one earned run on six hits in defeat.
Drake pounced early in the second game, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on McClelland's two-out, RBI single. Back-to-back hits by Amy Pierce and Craddock set the table for the Bulldogs, and McClelland lined Wiggins' 2-1 pitch into center to plate the first run of the game.
The Bulldogs added another tally in the third when Pierce walked, stole second and came around on another McClelland run-scoring hit to make it a 2-0 DU advantage.
Dordel made the lead stand, keeping the Bears off the scoreboard thanks to some assistance from her defense. Missouri State missed out on scoring chances in three straight innings, as the Drake defense threw out baserunners at the plate in both the third and fourth innings, and Dordel worked around a Raeven Replogle lead-off triple in the fifth to maintain her two-run lead.
Dordel (11-10) would surrender six hits to MSU in completing her third shutout of the season, while Wiggins (6-3) gave up both DU runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings of work.
Knehans led MSU's 11-hit attack, going 4-for-6 on the afternoon, while Schwark added a pair of hits in the second game. Nevertheless, the Bears' offense has produced just one run over the last 31 innings dating back to last Friday's game two loss at Southern Illinois.
With the two setbacks, Missouri State (22-22, 10-10 MVC) saw its season-long losing streak stretch to five games heading into Sunday's series finale. Due to rain in the forecast, the first pitch of the contest has been moved up to 11 a.m.