Bears Lock up Fifth-Place Valley Finish with 7-0 Win over Evansville
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Behind another standout pitching performance and their best offensive effort in three weeks, the Missouri State Bears completed a three-game sweep of Evansville with a 7-0 victory Sunday afternoon at Killian Stadium. With their third straight win, the Bears wrapped up the regular season with a 25-23 overall mark and secured the No. 5 seed at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Softball Championship, which they will host, May 12-14.
Just one day after tossing her the first no-hitter of her Missouri State career, Natalie Rose (18-19) was once again in control against the Purple Aces Sunday. The junior right-hander limited Evansville to just two hits and three walks over 5.0 shutout innings of work to move into the Bears' top 10 for single-season victories.
Rose's effort concluded a weekend that saw her give up just one earned run on six hits in 17.0 innings against the Purple Aces.
With Rose holding the Aces in check, the Bears' offense found its rhythm by scoring all seven runs over a three-inning span to erase any doubt about the outcome. After Rose worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the second, MSU jumped on top 2-0 in the bottom half of the inning, thanks to singles from Heather Duckworth and Christa Gammon and a throwing error by UE starting pitcher Taylor Perry.
Missouri State manufactured two more runs in the third, as Jenna Schwark got on base once again to start a key rally. The senior outfielder--who led MSU's offensive charge by going 5-for-6 in Saturday's doubleheader sweep of Evansville--drew a lead-off walk, moved to second on Ashley Knehans' ground ball and advanced to third on a Stevie Pierce fly out to left. Raeven Replogle then came through with a base hit up the middle to plate Schwark with MSU's third run of the day. The Bears weren't quite done, as Replogle swiped second and came around on another Evansville error to make it a 4-0 ballgame.
MSU broke the game wide open in the fourth, scoring three times on three hits and one more costly UE miscue. Madison Hargrove and Gammon started things off with back-to-back hits, and Kirstin Cutter's fielder's choice grounder produced the first run of the frame. A wild pitch coupled with a throwing error by the Aces catcher scored Gammon and moved Cutter into scoring position. Tyler Porter capped the scoring with a base hit through the right side to make it a seven-run game.
Evansville would never seriously threaten from that point against Rose and reliever Savannah Wiggins, who closed out the victory with two solid innings. The freshman righty yielded just one hit and one walk.
Gammon's 2-for-3 day paced MSU's eight-hit attack that led to its highest single-game run total since April 17. Schwark also turned in a strong day at the plate, going 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored to cap a week in which she batted .700 over four games.
Missouri State (25-23, 13-11 MVC) will move on to the MVC Championship, where they will meet eighth-seeded Bradley (12-40, 6-19) at 11 a.m., Thursday (May 12) in the opening round at Killian Stadium.