Softball Bears fall to Drake in MVC championship
Drake’s Kristin Birocci delivered a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the third inning to propel the fourth-seeded Bulldogs to a 7-2 win over the Missouri State softball team Saturday (May 10) in the championship game of the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in Carbondale, Ill. MVC Newcomer of the Year Brynne Dordel earned tournament MVP honors after limiting the Bears to one earned run on six hits in a complete-game effort Saturday to pick up her third straight win in the tourney.
Dordel, who went 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in her three starts in the tournament, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth, striking out pinch-hitter Jana Shewmaker to end the frame and preserve a then-4-2 DU lead. The Bulldogs added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh to seal the tournament championship.
The loss ended the seventh-seeded Bears’ bid for their sixth conference tournament title and the Valley’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth after MSU had strung together three consecutive wins, including victories over two of the top three seeds, to reach the title game.
Missouri State starting pitcher Melissa Porche appeared to be in top form early in the contest, as the senior right-hander retired the first eight hitters of the game. But with two out in the third, the Bulldogs’ ninth-place hitter, Carrie Hatfield delivered an opposite-field single to right to keep the inning alive. After Porche issued a walk to Marilynn Buss, Birocci belted the first pitch she saw over the left field wall for a momentum-shifting three-run homer.
The Bulldogs tacked on another run before Porche could record the final out in the third. Jaci Faidley singled to right, stole second base, then scored on Susan Slycord’s soft liner that landed just shy of rightfielder Tyler Porter’s glove.
Drake’s big inning followed a two-out, RBI-triple by MSU freshman Christa Gammon in the bottom of the second inning. Another MSU freshman, Ashley Knehans, reached first via a fielding error by Drake shortstop Elena Leon with one out before Gammon lined a 2-2 offering over the outstretched glove of DU leftfielder Kelsey Kahler to drive in the first run of the game.
Porche, Jessie Smith and Michelle Armentrout each earned all-tournament honors for the Bears.
With the loss, the Bears closed the 2008 season with a record of 28-22, while Drake advances to the NCAA Tournament with a 29-24 overall mark after claiming its first conference softball title since defeating Missouri State in the 1994 MVC championship game.