JOPLIN - The Missouri Southern Lions softball (31-20, 14-8 MIAA) celebrated their seniors today in style with a 6-3 & 7-3 sweep of the visiting Southwest Baptist University Bearcats at Lea Kungle Field. With the sweep of SBU the Lions won 30+ games for the first time in school since 2002 when Southern finished 34-16, 10-8 in the MIAA under former head coach Ron Faubion.
In the first game of the twinbill, the Lions supported senior Tiffany Bennett (5-10) with six runs and she held the Bearcats to just three runs on eight hits while striking out seven Southwest Baptist batters. The complete game by Bennett was her seventh in her career as a Lion.
The Lions tagged Southwest Baptist pitching in game one for 11 hits with multi-hit games from senior Lauren Hasty and juniors Brianna Fulkerson, Alysha Poteat, and Natalie Nelson. Fulkerson and Nelson added two RBIs each and Hasty brought home the remaining RBI.
Southern got on the board quickly as they pushed across two runs in the home half of the second inning as Poteat reached base on a single to the shortstop and was scored from first on a double to right field by Nelson. Nelson would then score on a single to center by Hasty.
The Lions would then allow one run in each of the third, fourth, fifth innings to be down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
That is when Southern's bats came alive scoring four runs on five hits with a Bearcat error. Sophomore Dawn Grass started the rally with a single to left field, she was then pinch ran for by freshman Brooklyn Farrell. Poteat would then reach base on a fielder's choice and end up at third while Farrell was safe at second on a throwing error by the SBU third baseman, Farrell would score on that error as the ball ended up in deep right field. Nelson would single through the left side of the Bearcat infield to score Poteat and then advance to second on a Hasty single to left field. Junior Nicole Reed would pinch hit for freshman Madison Reed and ground out to third and advance both Nelson and freshman Shelby Romines, running for Hasty. Fulkerson would then single up the middle to score both Nelson and Romines to round out the scoring for the Lions.
After an emotional ceremony honoring the three seniors, Tiffany Bennett, Lauren Hasty, and Megan Roark the Lions got back to work finishing the sweep with a 7-3 victory.
In the night cap Southern would use just eight hits to score their seven runs on the SBU number one pitcher and found themselves down 2-0 heading into the home frame of the third inning.
In the third the Lions would score two runs, to tie the game, on just one hit and three Bearcat errors. Junior Lydia Niemegeers started off with a single to second base and was sacrificed over by fellow junior Brooke Hurley. Fulkerson reached on a fielding error by the third baseman and would advance to second and then to third on a throwing error by the third baseman that would score Niemegeers. After a strike out sophomore Jessica Brooks would walk and then take second on a throwing error by the catcher, which scored Fulkerson to tie the game at 2-2.
Southern would then take the lead for good in the next frame as they manufactured a run to go up 3-2. Grass drew a walk to start the inning and was then pinch ran for by Madison Reed. Reed then stole second and third on consecutive pitches. Nelson would then reach safely on a fielder's choice sacrifice bunt as the third baseman fielded the ball and held it as Reed scampered home.
Southern would then add one more in the fifth, as junior Breanna Volkmann scored on a wild pitch, and three more in the sixth inning.
The sixth inning saw three runs cross the plate on five hits. The inning started with Nelson popping out to the catcher, Niemegeers singling to shortstop followed by a Hurley single to left field and a walk to Fulkerson to load the bases. Volkmann's single to short left field would score Niemegeers and Brooks single to center field would score Hurley. After a line out by Roark to right field Madison Reed would single to right to score Fulkerson. Tiffany Bennett would strike out to end the inning, that was Bennett's first career at bat at Southern.
Southwest Baptist would add one run in the top of the seventh to provide the final 7-3 score before junior Nicole Reed (24-6) would shut the door on SBU.
Reed finished the game allowing just three runs on eight hits with eight strike outs. Reed now owns not only the single season record for strike outs but also sole possession of fifth in the career standing with 208 strike outs.
The Lions will now await the final weather related make ups in conference play to find out their seeding in the MIAA Post-Season Tournament. The 2011 Tournament will be played at the Blue Valley Sports Complex in Overland Park, Kan. and the bracket can be found here: http://themiaa.com/sports/sball/2010-11/files/2011MIAASoftballBracket.pdf.
No matter the seeding Southern will play Thursday May 5 at 6pm followed by round two at 8pm.