Late UNI Rally Sinks Bears, 4-2, in Regular-Season Finale
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Sarah Bakey’s two-run, walk-off homer capped a seventh-inning rally for the UNI Panthers and handed the home team a 4-2 victory over the Missouri State softball team Sunday afternoon at Robinson-Dresser Sports Complex. With the win, UNI (28-24, 13-12 MVC) wrapped up the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye at next weekend’s State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship, while the Bears (18-30, 13-12 MVC) claimed the fifth seed and will face Evansville in Thursday’s (May 13) opening round.
With one on and one out, Bakey deliverd the game-ending blow, but not before the Panthers pushed across the tying run to set the stage. First, Lindsay Callanan doubled off the left-centerfield fence to lead-off the frame and spark the UNI offense. After Courtney Dunker moved her to third with a sacrifice bunt, Samantha Reimer then knotted the score at 2-2 with a grounder through the left side of the Bears’ infield.
Bakey, a senior, then scripted the perfect ending to her home career, driving Natalie Rose’s 1-1 pitch out of the park for her first home run of the season to complete UNI’s comeback.
Despite the setback, Rose (6-11) turned in another solid outing Sunday, working 6.1 innings after tossing the final 13.0 innings of Saturday’s doubleheader split with UNI. The sophomore worked out of several jams throughout the day, including a bases-loaded situation in the first inning that ended with her strikeout of Eranne Daugharthy.
Caitlin Chapin put Missouri State on the board first with a drive that cleared the fence in straight-away centerfield to lead-off the top of the second inning. Not only did Chapin’s eighth long ball of the season give the Bears an early 1-0 lead, it tied the MSU record for home runs by a freshman, previously set by Jessie Smith in 2006.
Rose avoided trouble again in the third after the Panthers put their first two batters on base. Jen Larsen led-off the frame with a double off the leftfield wall, before Livi Abney hit what appeared to be a routine fly to left-center that fell in between two MSU outfielders to set up a first-and-third situation. But Rose coaxed a ground ball off the bat of Callanan that Christa Gammon fielded at second and fired home to nip Larsen for the first out of the inning. Dunker then swung and missed at strike three for out number two, before Rose grabbed a soft liner off the bat of Reimer for the final out of the inning.
The Panthers would pull even in the fourth, when Hannah Borschel lined a 3-2 offering from Rose over the rightfield fence for a solo home run.
The Bears scratched out an unearned run in the top of the sixth to reclaim the upper hand. Gammon lined a single up the middle to lead-off the frame, advanced to second on a passed ball, then trotted home on Jenna Schwark's base hit to left for a 2-1 MSU lead.
Melissa Tillett (8-15) picked up the win for UNI with a complete-game effort in which she allowed just one earned run on three hits.
Along with Callanan, Megan Machovec, Mackenzie Daigh led the Panther offense with two-hit games.
Up next, the Bears will begin their quest for a sixth MVC title Thursday at 11 a.m., against eighth-seeded Evansville at Buel Field in Des Moines. Should MSU win its tourney opener, it would then play UNI at 4 p.m. that afternoon in the quarterfinal round.