Top-seeded Southern Illinois used a trio of two-out home runs to score four unanswered runs over the first two innings to outlast the Missouri State softball team, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship at Buel Field. With the loss, Missouri State concluded its 42nd season of varsity competition with a 21-32 overall record.
Haley Gorman’s two-run blast with two out in the bottom of the second would prove to be the difference for the MVC’s regular-season champions, as league pitcher of the year Danielle Glosson turned in her second strong performance of the tournament against the Bears to send the Salukis to Saturday afternoon’s title game against the No. 3 seed Creighton.
Glosson came on in relief of SIU starter Alex Peters with one out in the first and shut-down the Bears’ offense for the rest of the day, allowing just one run on four hits over her 6.2 innings of work. After tying an MVC Championship record with 18 strikeouts in Thursday’s 2-0 win over the Bears in 10 innings, Glosson fanned eight batters Saturday to improve to 25-13 overall on the season.
After combining for just four hits over the first nine innings of their first meeting of the tournament on Friday, the two clubs pounded out five hits and scored four combined runs in the opening inning Saturday. Christa Gammon led-off the Bears’ first with a single to right and, following a pop-up from Kirstin Cutter, slid into second ahead of the throw from SIU third baseman Natalee Weissinger on a Jenna Schwark grounder. Caitlin Chapin followed with a two-hopper to that shortstop Haley Gorman couldn’t handle, allowing Gammon to come around for the first run of the game. Ashley Knehans then lined an opposite-field single to right to chase Schwark home and give the Bears a 2-0 lead.
SIU came right back in their half of the inning, getting back-to-back solo shots from Alicia Garza and Cristina Trapani to tie the game after MSU starter Natalie Rose used just two pitches to retire the first two hitters of the frame.
Gorman’s key blow came after Rose nearly worked her way around Chelsea Held’s bloop double to lead-off the second. The MSU sophomore got Mallory Duran to roll out to first following a sacrifice bunt by Alicia Junker, but Gorman took a 1-0 pitch deep to rightfield for a two-run homer and a 4-2 Saluki lead.
Knehans powered up for the Bears in the top of the fourth to slice the MSU deficit in half. The junior belted the first pitch she saw from Danielle Glosson over the wall in leftfield to lead-off the inning and make it a 4-3 contest. Bubba Weiss and Stevie Pierce drew walks to put the tying run in scoring position, but Glosson struck-out Alaina Burkhart, then got Gammon to pop-up to short to avoid further damage.
The Bears put a pair of runners on base again in the sixth, but Glosson retired Madison Hargrove and Tyler Porter on pop-fouls to preserve the one-run lead for SIU.
Lauren Supak gave the Bears a lift out of the bullpen, tossing four innings of scoreless relief. The senior right-hander allowed just two hits to keep the Bears within striking distance of SIU, after Rose came out of the game in the third inning to end a string of 51.1 consecutive innings pitched over MSU’s last eight games.
Knehans led the Bears at the plate with a 2-for-3 day to wrap up the tournament with a .429 batting average over five games. Her fourth-inning homer upped the Bears team total to 34, which tied the Missouri State record for home runs in a season.