The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 5, 2014

After error-filled opener, Lions make key plays to trip Emporia State

Talk about a defensive turnaround.

Missouri Southern — the MIAA’s best defensive team with a .975 fielding percentage — committed five errors in a 7-3 loss to No. 7 Emporia State on Saturday afternoon at Lea Kungle Field.

However, the Lions came back with two defensive gems in the seventh inning to preserve a 9-7 victory in the nightcap and hand the Lady Hornets their first conference loss of the season.

The Lions (13-25, 5-9 MIAA) took command with a seven-run first inning en route to only their fifth victory against Emporia State in the last 26 games. The Hornets made things interesting when Eryn Stockman belted a grand slam in the top of the sixth inning, but Chloe Brown’s triple down the right field line ignited MSSU’s two-run sixth for a 9-4 lead. The runs scored on Alexah Replogle’s double to right-center field and a wild pitch by Stockman.

The Hornets (33-8, 13-1), who had four hits through six innings, stroked five consecutive hits to start the seventh inning. Three singles off Haley Kinnison loaded the bases before Jessica Gragg greeted reliever Shelby Mitchell with a bases-clearing double to right-center field.

Andrea Piezuch singled up the middle, and Gragg stopped at third base as center fielder Jessica Castoe made a strong throw to the plate. Piezuch attempted to move into scoring position on the throw, but catcher Kathryn Goins’ throw to shortstop Michala Wood retired Piezuch on a close play.

Kaitlyn Caston then hit a grounder between the pitcher’s circle and the first-base line. Mitchell fielded the ball, faked a throw to first base and then threw home to retire Gragg.

“I was raised to do that — fake the throw to first and go home — by my dad (Brian Mitchell, softball coach at Riverton) all through high school,” Mitchell said. And she had no thought about getting the sure out at first base and conceding the run.

“Not when you can get her out at home for sure,” Mitchell said.

“The play Mitchell made is the same play she made to beat Central Missouri in the tournament up in St. Joseph,” Lions coach Bill Gray said. “The same exact play, except this kid was twice as far off as the other kid was.

“Lo and behold we worked on dekes during the week, trying to hold runners on bases and/or get them out. She did a great job coming in relief. Haley Kinnison got through some demons today and kept us in the ball game, and we were able to bring in Shelby Mitchell, who got it done.”

Mitchell then retired Jacie Stephens on a grounder to the mound, and this time Mitchell threw to first base without hesitation.

The Lions parlayed four hits, two walks and three errors into their seven-run first inning — their second highest total of the season.

Wood walked, Brown singled to right, and both moved up a base when the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Shelby Romines then belted a double that short-hopped the fence in center field as Wood and Brown scored easily.

“I was always taught to hit behind the runner,” Romines said. “I was looking for my pitch, and she happened to throw it.”

“That was big to get those two runs,” Gray said. “And then for them to just keep coming was awesome.”

Romines then hustled to third, making a good read on a short wild pitch, and she scored on Dawn Grass’ sacrifice fly to the warning track in center field for a 3-0 lead.

Replogle walked and scored on Kathryn Goins’ double to right-center field. Brooke Swadley reached on an error to put runners at the corners, and Rachel Harding singled to right to score Goins. Then with two outs Wood reached on the Hornets’ third error to score Swadley and Harding and give the Lions a 7-0 cushion.

Brown, Replogle, Goins and Harding all had two hits for the Lions.

Romines also started an inning-ending double play in the fourth inning when she caught Stephens’ flyball in shallow right field. Her throw was cut off by first baseman Dawn Grass, and Grass’ relay retired the runner as Goins had the plate blocked.

“All year I’ve been throwing it home, and we couldn’t hand it or whatever,” Romines said. “I was ready to hose her down, and I gave Dawn a hard time — ‘don’t cut off my ball!’ It was exciting. I try to help my pitchers as much as I can. They work so hard, and I try to give everything I got for them.”

In the opener three errors led to three unearned runs and a 3-2 Emporia State lead before the Hornets tallied four runs in the third, highlighted by Tricia Vogel’s two-run single.

The Lions scored twice in the first inning on Replogle’s single to right and a wild pitch, and Romines singled home a run in the seventh.

Wood, Romines and Grass had two hits apiece for the Lions, who outhit the Hornets 9-7.

The Lions play host to Washburn in a twinbill today at noon.

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