Bears Top Iona for First NCAA Tournament Win Since 1998
NORMAN, Okla. -- Kirstin Cutter's one-out triple in the top of the seventh inning paved the way to Missouri State's first postseason win in 13 years, as the Bears scored twice in their final at-bat to outlast Iona, 4-2, Saturday afternoon at the NCAA Division I Softball Championship Norman Regional. With the win, the Bears (30-24) move on to play Tulsa at 6 p.m., Saturday in another elimination contest.
After Iona knotted the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth on a Alyssa Maiese sacrifice fly, Cutter lined an 0-2 pitch to the wall in right-center to chase Ashley Brentz home with the go-ahead run. Christa Gammon provided an insurance run with an infield single, and Savannah Wiggins made the two-run lead stand, closing out just the third Missouri State victory in NCAA play.
The win for the Bears marked their first in the tournament since 1998, when they defeated Stanford in their first game at the Stillwater Regional. It also stopped a string of eight straight postseason losses for Missouri Valley Conference teams in NCAA Tournament action over the last two years.
The Bears got the ball rolling right away against Maiese (12-9), putting their first two hitters of the game on base courtesy of a lead-off walk to Cutter and an Iona fielding miscue. A ground ball off the bat of Gammon moved both runners into scoring position, and Stevie Pierce's two-out, two-run double to left made it a 2-0 ballgame.
Iona cut the MSU advantage in half in the bottom of the second as Maiese belted a Wiggins offering out to right-center for her school-record-setting 13th home run of the season.
Both pitchers settled into a groove to keep the opposition off the scoreboard despite close calls for each club in the fourth inning. The Bears put a pair of runners on base with one out, but Maiese worked her way out of the jam by getting Madison Hargrove to ground into a fielder's choice before fanning Caitlin Chapin to end the inning.
The Gaels would threaten in their half of the fourth, as Eileen McCann and Maiese recorded back-to-back hits to start the inning. But like her counterpart, Wiggins avoided any damage, coaxing three straight grounders to strand a pair of Iona baserunners in scoring position.
Wiggins (8-4) earned her first postseason victory with a complete-game effort, giving up just two runs on six hits.
Pierce paced the Missouri State attack, going 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs batted-in, while Porter chipped in two hits in four trips to the plate.