The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 12, 2014

Softball Lions battle back to earn split with Nebraska-Kearney

Missouri Southern responded from a deflating first-game loss to pound Nebraska-Kearney 10-2 in five innings in the finale of an MIAA doubleheader at Lea Kungle Field on Saturday afternoon.

“Much better,” Southern coach Bill Gray said. “These kids have worked pretty hard all year and to finally get a little bit of a reward, I mean, this was a weekend we felt like we were going to go 2-2 or 3-1. At least we got one.”

The Lions struggled to string hits together for most of the opener, falling 7-4. Southern trailed 4-0 after 51⁄2 innings but finally found its offense in the sixth.

With one out, Brooke Swadley reached on a single up the middle, Rachel Harding walked and Swadley advanced to third on a passed ball. Jessica Castoe put the Lions on the board with a double, scoring Swadley and moving Harding to third. Michala Wood followed with an infield single to make it 4-2. Castoe scored from third on Chloe Brown’s fielder’s choice as Wood was forced out at second. Shelby Romines singled to put Brown in scoring position and the Lions’ all-time leading home run hitter Dawn Grass tied the game at 4-4 with a double to left-center.

The Nebraska-Kearney offense took advantage of some Southern miscues in the top of the seventh to retake the lead. Taylre Keenan reached on an error and moved up to third on a wild pitch and passed ball within the same at-bat. A single and two doubles in the inning gave the Lopers three runs.

In the second game, Southern used a five-run third inning to bury its opponent. The Lions hit for the cycle as a team in the inning among six straight hits. Harding flied out to start the inning and Castoe followed with a single. On the next pitch Wood hit a sharp ground ball to the right side that struck Castoe for an out and credited a single for Wood.

Brown follwed with a double, scoring Wood, Romines tripled to make it 2-0 and Grass extended the lead with an RBI single. Kathryn Goins’ second home run in as many days gave Southern a 5-0 lead.

Two doubles, a single and a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth resulted in UNK’s only scoring in the game, cutting the deficit to 5-2.

“It was critical that she (pitcher Haley Kinnison) shut them down after those two runs,” Gray said. “It didn’t become something bigger. And that was huge.”

Southern continued to pile on in the bottom half. Swadley led off with a single, Harding moved her into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and Castoe doubled to make it 6-2. An error on a popup in right field allowed the Lions to tack on two more unearned runs to go up 8-2 after four innings.

The game ended via the run-rule in the fifth. Brooklyn Farrell reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a double by Harding. After Castoe reached on an error to load the bases, Wood shot a grounder up the middle for a walkoff single, giving the Lions a split.

“Her getting that hit, she’s had a frustrating weekend at the plate,” Gray said. “But getting that hit ... it was a good deal.”

Missouri Southern (15-31, 7-15 MIAA) travels to face William Jewell in a nonconference doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

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