The Missouri State softball team fell 2-1 to Bradley Thursday afternoon in the first round of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in Normal, Ill., on the campus of Illinois State University. The Braves won the game despite tallying only two hits off Bears’ starter Melissa Porche in the contest. The loss ends the Bears' season at 21-29. Bradley improved to 26-22 and advances to play third-seed Southern Illinois later tonight.
Missouri State jumped to an early one-run lead, as the Bears manufactured a first inning run off Bradley starter Ashley Birdsong. Senior Katie Martin ripped a one-out single to left and then stole second base and advanced to third on a Bradley error on the play. Martin then scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of sophomore Elysha Swider to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Bradley evened the score in the top of the fourth, as Porche committed a two-base throwing error to allow Miriam Wegmann to reach. Wiegmann advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by Amanda Clack to tie the game at 1-1. Then in the top of the fifth, Braves’ catcher Sara Loete blasted a solo home run to left field to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. The homer proved to be the game-winning tally for Bradley.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jen Carr drew a two-out walk to start a Missouri State rally. Jessie Smith then singled and advanced a base on a fielding error by Bradley’s leftfielder to put runners on second and third. The rally was stopped, however, when Martin fouled out to end the inning. In the sixth, Porche singled with two outs but the inning ended when sophomore Brooke Kempker lined out to the pitcher.
In MSU’s last chance of the game in the bottom of the seventh, junior Jana Shewmaker laced a shot into right-center field, but Bradley’s Christine Cooney made a fully-extended diving catch to deny Shewmaker an extra base hit. Jen Carr ripped a two-out single to keep the Bears alive, but Smith popped up to the shortstop to end the game.
Porche (16-19) suffered another tough-luck defeat on the mound, allowing only two hits in a complete game effort. In 16 of Porche's 19 losses this season, the Bears' offense tallied no runs or only one run. The junior struck out nine in the contest to finish with 222 strikeouts for the season, which ties for fourth-most in a single season at MSU. Porche also finished second in school history with 35 starts and third with 41 appearances and 232 innings pitched this season.
Bradley's Ashley Birdsong picked up the victory on the mound, allowing five hits in a complete game performance. Birdsong struck out nine Bears in the contest.
The loss marks the end of the careers for seniors Katie Martin, Courtney Owens, and Whitney Peyton.