Bears Pull Out Extra-Inning Victory to Split Twin Bill with UNI
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Ashley Knehans' eighth-inning home run propelled the Missouri State softball team to a 2-1 victory over UNI Saturday (May 8) afternoon to give the Bears a doubleheader split with the Panthers, who claimed a 6-2 win in the series opener earlier in the afternoon at Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex. Sophomore pitcher Natalie Rose turned in a complete-game effort to earn the win for MSU, which wrapped up a tie for fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with the win.
Knehans led-off the top of the eighth inning with her seventh homer of the season-an opposite-field blast to right off UNI left-hander Melissa Tillett (7-14) that broke up a 1-1 tie. Rose took it from there, working out of a two-on, one-out jam in the bottom of the eighth to close out her sixth win of the year. After issuing a walk to Jen Larsen with one out and Megan Machovec on second, Rose retired Livi Abney on a pop-up to second before fanning Lindsey Callanan for the final out of the contest.
The career-high 8.0 inning effort for Rose capped a day in which she worked the final 13 innings of the doubleheader for MSU, allowing just three runs on seven hits while striking out nine Panthers in all.
After UNI plated the first run of the game in the fourth on an RBI single from Abney, MSU rallied for a run of its own in the fifth, as Jenna Schwark's second of three hits in the game drove in Kirstin Cutter from second to even the score.
Tillett was nearly as impressive as Rose, striking out nine Bears while allowing just eight hits over seven innings of work. Rose, however, got stronger as the game progressed. She would allow just one hit after the fourth inning-Machovec's lead-off single in the eighth-and amassed five of her six punch-outs in innings five through eight.
Schwark led the Bears at the plate with a 3-for-3 performance to finish the day with four hits in five at-bats. The junior reached base in six of her seven plate appearances, drawing a walk in the second game as well.
The win for the Bears secured the first winning conference season for MSU since 2006, when the Bears went 18-4 in Valley play. It also sets up a Sunday showdown between the same two teams for the No. 4 seed in next week's State Farm MVC Softball Championship in Des Moines. Although the Bears take a one-game lead over the Panthers into the regular-season finale, UNI can claim the head-to-head tie-breaker and an opening round bye at the conference meet with a win Sunday.
Game one saw UNI score six unanswered runs-all coming via the long ball-after MSU grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Christa Gammon led things off with an infield single, but was forced out at second on Tyler Porter's sacrifice attempt. Schwark drove in the first run of the day with a double in the right-centerfield gap, then scored herself when Caitlin Chapin singled to center and Machovec misplayed the ball for an error.
That would be all the offense Larsen would allow, however, as the senior right-hander permitted just four singles over the ensuing six innings.
The Panthers' offense wasted little time in answering MSU's two-run first, as Larsen (14-8) helped her own cause with a two-out, solo home run to right in the bottom half of the first. The biggest blow of the game came an inning later, when Courtney Dunker deposited Lauren McGinley's (6-10) 2-1 offering over the wall in right for a three-run homer to give the Panthers a 4-2 advantage.
UNI would add two more runs in fourth on Samantha Reimer's two-run shot to right off Rose, who worked the final 5.0 innings in relief of McGinley.
The loss overshadowed a career-best four-hit game for Gammon. Chapin also turned in a perfect effort at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a walk for MSU.
The two teams will conclude their three-game series Sunday (May 9) with a single contest at noon.