By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern’s softball program debuted in the spring of 1975.
Roscoe Evans was the Lions’ first coach, and Sallie Beard helped out in addition to being head women’s tennis coach.
“I went back and forth between tennis and softball,” Beard said. “I went straight from basketball into tennis and softball. We didn’t have much of a schedule. It was not nearly as intense or developed in terms of a schedule as it is now. Both sports worked around each other.”
The Lions played their home games at Ewert Park, and they continued to play off campus until Lea Kungle Field was completed in time for the 1986 season.
The softball program began in the same school year as the basketball program, but there was a lot more experience on the field in softball.
“Even though softball was not offered to (many) schools, it was offered through summer programs,” Beard said. “There were more girls who had some exposure to softball.
“Softball was one of those things girls did during the summer. There weren’t any leagues for basketball. The reason softball took off is there was already kind of grass roots organization to it. It had a feeder system through the area parks and recreation programs.”
The Lions went 3-13 that first season, starting the campaign with road victories over John Brown University 13-8 and 23-17 on April 4, 1975.
The first home games came three days later, and the Lions dropped two games to Southwest Missouri State 19-5 and 11-0.
The Lions’ starting lineup, according to Joplin Globe stories: right fielder Cindy Heart, second baseman Tina Stephens, shortstop Barbara Cunningham, catcher Sandy Bary, third baseman Donna Underwood, center fielder Marti Gray, first baseman Susie Sparks, left fielder Debbie Nelson and pitcher Janice Lipe or Doddie Garner.
After that first year, Geraldine Albin was hired as softball coach. She coached for three years, then G.I. Willoughby coached for three years before Pat Lipira arrived on campus and coached the Lions to 632 victories from 1982-2000, highlighted by the 1992 Division II national championship.