Missouri State (29-23) exploded for four runs in the top of the sixth to help the Bears to a 7-4 victory over Drake here Saturday in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The victory marked the club’s sixth MVC Tournament title and propelled the Bears to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
The Bears struck first with a two-run homer in the top of the third by Stevie Pierce, her third of the season.
Drake (34-21) answered with a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth off the bat of Jordan Gronewold, her ninth of the season, but MSU was up to the task and got a bases-load single from Heather Duckworth in the fifth to regain a two-run lead, 3-1.
Missouri State opened the flood gates in the sixth as it sent eight hitters to the plate and collected five hits, including a two-run single by Pierce off Jenna DeLong who was chased in the fifth and then re-entered to face Pierce. Ashley Knehans and Raeven Replogle also had RBI singles in the inning as the Bears built a 7-1 lead.
From there, tournament MVP Natalie Rose put the finishing touches on the title. She finished with five strikeouts and improved to 22-19 on the season, pitching all 28 innings of the tournament, including a pair of shutouts on Thursday.
Drake tried to mount a furious comeback late and notched three runs in the final two innings behind three doubles. But MSU held strong and Rose got Sam West to ground out to Kirstin Cutter to end the game.
As the No. 5 seed, MSU had to win four straight games to secure the title and never trailed in 28 innings of tournament play. Holly Hesse’s squad also became just the second tournament host in Valley history to win a tournament title.
Eight different Bears collected hits in the game, including two apiece by Tyler Porter, Pierce and Christa Gammon. Pierce finished with a game-high four RBI. All-tournament honors went to Rose, Knehans, Porter and Duckworth.
The No. 2 seeded Bulldogs got two hits apiece from Jenna DeLong, Amy Pierce, McClelland, and Gronewold.
Missouri State will now await the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU to determine their regional opponents and site. This is the sixth NCAA Tournament appearance for Missouri State, but first since 2006.