The Missouri State softball team got its fourth straight complete game from Natalie Rose to help beat fourth-seeded Northern Iowa, 4-3, in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference Softball Championship Thursday evening at Buel Field in Des Moines, IA. With the victory, MSU (20-30) advances to a Friday semifinal match-up against MVC regular-season champion Southern Illinois at 11 a.m.
After Missouri State scored four unanswered runs to build a 4-1 lead, Rose (8-11) held off the Panthers’ late charge to help send the Bears to the double-elimination portion of the championship. The sophomore right-hander limited UNI to three runs on eight hits in her second complete-game effort of the day.
The Bears seized control of the game with back-to-back two-run innings after UNI had taken an early 1-0 advantage on a lead-off home run from Eranne Daugharthy in the bottom of the second. MSU struck for a pair of runs in the top of the third, thanks in large part to two UNI fielding errors. Lead-off hitter Madison Hargrove reached base via third baseman Sarah Bakey’s miscue, and pinch-hitter Stevie Pierce drew a two-out walk to keep the inning alive and set up Jenna Schwark’s two-run single to left.
It was freshman Lauren Eisenreich’s turn to deliver the big blow the following inning. After Ashley Knehans singled up the middle and Bubba Weiss flew out to center, Eisenreich bombed Melissa Tillett’s 3-1 offering over the wall in right-center to stake Rose and the Bears to a 4-1 lead.
Rose would hold the Panthers at bay with a little help from her defense. Second baseman Christa Gammon turned in a trio of key plays in the game, none bigger than a 4-3 double-play on a grounder from Hannah Borschel that squashed a sixth-inning scoring threat, just moments after Eranne Daugherthy’s single to center plated UNI’s second run of the game to pull the Panthers to within 4-2.
UNI (28-25) threatened again in the seventh, getting a lead-off, pinch-home run from Courtney Dunker to draw to within a single run.
But Rose would retire Kim Wachholder on a pop-up to shortstop, then benefit from a batter’s interference call on Megan Machovec, who appeared to reach base on an infield single. However, home plate umpire Terri Rosenwald immediately called Machovec out for being out of the batter’s box when contact was made, and Rose put the game on ice by getting Mackenzie Daigh on a fly ball to center.
Tillett (8-16) took the loss for UNI after allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits over 4.0 innings. Machovec and Daugharthy led the way for the Panthers-who out-hit the Bears, 8-6-with two hits apiece.
With a win Friday morning against top-seeded Southern Illinois, the Bears would advance to a 6:30 p.m., match-up Friday evening against the winner of the second semifinal, which will feature second-seeded Illinois State and the No. 3 seed, Creighton. A loss would send MSU to an elimination contest versus the loser of the other semifinal match-up at 4 p.m. Friday.