By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
The biggest disappointment for Missouri Southern in the early stages of the softball season is its home performance.
The Lions compiled an 11-4 record in tournaments at Durant, Okla., Bentonville, Ark., and Oklahoma City.
But in last week’s home debut, Missouri Southern dropped three games in the rain-shortened Border Battle — 8-2 to Central Missouri and 4-1 and 7-6 to Upper Iowa.
The Lions are back at home again this weekend to start the MIAA season. The Lions face No. 8-ranked Central Oklahoma at 3 p.m. today and Northeastern State at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The MIAA schedule consists of 28 games — 14 doubleheaders against each of the other teams in the league. The top eight teams qualify for the postseason tournament on May 2-4 in Overland Park, Kan.
“We’ve gone to the tournament in odd-numbered years,” Lions coach Bill Gray said. “We hope to continue that trend this year and break it next year.
“MIAA softball is very competitive. There’s not a day where the No. 15 team can’t beat the No. 1 team. It shouldn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t as the year goes on.”
The Lions have two league twinbills almost every weekend through the end of April. Their league games against Pittsburg State are on Wednesday, April 17, in Pittsburg. The Lions and Gorillas are both at home against Lincoln that weekend.
Right fielder Shelby Romines leads the Lions with a .458 batting average. She’s also been the most productive batter with eight doubles, six home runs and 20 runs batted in.
Shortstop Michala Wood is hitting .400 and has seven doubles among her 24 hits. Second baseman Brooke Swadley and center fielder Alana Hester are batting .364 and .333, respectively, and first baseman Dawn Grass ranks second behind Romines with five homers and 12 RBI.
The Lions’ pitching duties have been shared among Sarah Williams (2-3, 3.00 earned run average), Hannah Cooke (2-1, 3.50), Haley Kinnison (3-1, 4.41) and Haley Pypes (4-2, 4.73). Pypes has struck out 34 batters and walked 31 in 37 innings, and Kinnison has 32 strikeouts and 29 walks in 33 innings.
Central Oklahoma (14-4) hasn’t played since it swept Southern Nazarene 12-3 and 8-3 on March 6. UCO pounded 26 hits in the doubleheader, including grand slams by Nicole Workman in the first game and Hayley Hudson in the nightcap.
The Bronchos have slugged 22 homers this season, including seven by Kacie Edwards and four by Workman. Workman has a team-high 21 RBI, two more than Edwards.
Leadoff hitter Ally Dziadula is batting .463, and Edwards and Devyn Frazier are hitting .446 and .415, respectively.
Kalynn Schrock leads the pitching staff with an 8-2 record and 1.63 ERA. She’s fanned 89 batters and walked 18 in almost 69 innings.
Northeastern State is 8-12 entering today’s games at Pittsburg State. A 5-2 nightcap victory over Arkansas Tech at home on Wednesday halted the RiverHawks’ eight-game losing streak.
Clay Davis is NSU’s new head coach, taking over for Dee Gerlach, former Missouri Southern assistant who resigned after last season to concentrate on finishing her Ph.D. She guided the RiverHawks to 234 victories in the previous 13 seasons.