From staff reports
Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State, both off to their best MIAA softball starts in several years, collide in a conference doubleheader today.
First pitch is 5 p.m. at Lea Kungle Field on the Missouri Southern campus in the Sonic Trophy Series matchup.
Missouri Southern holds a 5-3 edge in the 13-sport competition, and the softball point will be awarded if a team sweeps today’s games. If the teams split, the point will go to the team with a higher finish in the final conference standings.
The Lions (12-17) and Gorillas (15-16) are both 4-0 in league action after sweeping visiting Northwest Missouri State and Truman State last weekend. The Lions are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since going 17-1 in the conference championship year of 2001. The Gorillas had not won their first four league games since 1996.
Ironically, the two teams have players sharing MIAA hitter of the week honors — Missouri Southern’s Brooke Hurley and Pittsburg State’s Mannie DeCastro.
The Lions have a .298 team batting average and have six players batting at least .300, led by Breanna Volkmann’s .420 mark. Hurley is next at .353, followed by Lydia Niemegeers (.347), Shelby Romines (.321), Brianna Fulkerson (.318) and Brooklyn Farrell (.317).
Hurley has slugged three of the team’s five home runs and has 20 runs batted in, one more than Romines.
Haley Pypes paces the Missouri Southern pitching staff with a 7-2 record and 2.27 earned run average. She’s allowed 32 hits and 20 earned runs in 612⁄3 innings, struck out 50 batters and walked 53.
The Gorillas are batting .312 as a team and have belted 33 home runs.
DeCastro leads the Gorillas with a .456 batting average and .897 slugging percentage. Three home runs last weekend gave her seven for the season with 24 runs batted in.
Tiffany Brown is hitting .407 with team highs of 10 homers and 30 RBI. Seven more Gorillas are over .300, including Brenna George (.371), Cheslyn Mitchell (.342) and Kreslee Ketchum (.337).
Hilary Erbert (7-8) paces PSU’s pitchers in victories and strikeouts (32). Mitchell is 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA, and Jessica Barnes is 2-2 with a 2.15 ERA.