Bears outlast Illinois State, advance to MVC title game
The Missouri State softball team capitalized on four Illinois State errors to build a five run lead and got another strong start from Melissa Porche Friday (May 9) to outlast the Redbirds, 5-4, in the semifinal round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Charlotte West Stadium in Carbondale, Ill. With the win, the Bears move on to play fourth-seeded Drake for the MVC title and NCAA Tournament berth at 1:30 p.m. Saturday (May 10).
Porche picked up her third complete-game victory of the tournament, working out of several key jams to improve to 19-15 on the season. Illinois State tallied three runs in the bottom of the seventh to trim the margin to one run, but Porche slammed the door once again, getting Michelle Henderson to line out to left before striking out Rachel Smith to end the game.
The Bears (28-21) got off to a quick start, picking up right where they left off Thursday when they pounded out 21 hits and scored 13 runs in victories over Evansville and Southern Illinois. Jenna Schwark lined a 3-2 pitch from Illinois State’s Amber Smith into left to lead off the game, reaching on a two-base error when the ball popped out of Jessie Buker’s glove. With one out, Jessie Smith drew a walk, and Michelle Armentrout followed with a double into the right-center field gap to chase both baserunners home and give the seventh-seeded Bears an early 2-0 advantage.
Illinois State (28-20) threatened in its half of the first, as a one-out double by Smith,an infield hit by Buker and a base-on-balls issued to Michelle Henderson loaded the bases. But Porche worked her way out of the jam, getting Abby Olson on a liner to shortstop and Casey Gorrell on a grounder to third to end the inning.
Porche thwarted another potential Redbird rally in the third, fanning Henderson and Olson to end the frame after Kara Nelson singled and Smith drew a walk to open the inning.
Porche helped her own cause at the plate, doubling to right-center with two out in the fourth. Ashley Knehans delivered a single to center that brought home Porche for a 3-0 MSU lead. The Bears tacked on two more runs the following inning when Tyler Porter laced a grounder to short that glanced off Kaprice Williams glove, allowing pinch runner Ashley Arbon to score from second base. Catcher Casey Gorrell fielded the throw to the plate and tried to gun down the baserunner attempting to take second base, but her toss sailed wide of the bag and rolled deep into center field, allowing Porter to come all the way around with the fifth MSU run of the game.
Illinois State finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth on Smith’s 40th home run as a Redbird, which eclipsed Katie Jordan’s Missouri Valley Conference record for career homers.
Sunday’s championship game will be broadcast live on FSN Midwest at 1:30 p.m. Central.