By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The Missouri Southern Lions softball team entered Sunday’s doubleheader needing a sweep to stay in the MIAA Tournament hunt. However, the Lions left with a split.
Junior Chloe Brown hit a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the seventh to give the Lions a 3-2 win in the opener before falling 3-1 in the nightcap Sunday at Lea Kungle Field. The Lions (24-24 overall, 11-15 MIAA) will finish the regular season at 3 p.m. today with a home doubleheader against Southwest Baptist.
It was an emotional week for Lions second baseman Brooke Swadley and her teammates. Swadley’s mother, Angie Swadley, 44, of Purdy, Mo., died April 20 at Freeman Hospital in Joplin after suffering injuries in a car accident in March. The funeral was Friday.
Swadley elected to play Sunday’s doubleheader. Batting second in the order, she opened the first game with a single. She recorded an RBI double in the second game.
“That hit Brooke Swadley got in the first inning, she hadn’t seen a pitch in 10 days,” Missouri Southern coach Bill Gray said. “And she drives it. It was great for the hit. It was great for the RBI in the second game. And getting hit by a pitch means she’s back, because she leads the team in hit by pitches. I think that’s 10 now. It was all positive.”
One section of the home bleachers was filled with family members in support of Swadley.
“The support of my team and Coach Gray and Coach (Jenna) Smart has been just awesome,” Swadley said. “They’re just like family to me. I knew I had to come back today just because softball has been such a big part of my life and also my parents’ life. I knew my mom would want me to come play.”
Central Missouri (24-20, 14-12 MIAA) took a 2-0 lead in the first game with two runs in the fifth inning.
Still trailing 2-0, Missouri Southern’s Dawn Grass led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk. Haley Pyles singled to right, then Brooklyn Farrell loaded the bases after a bunt single. With two outs, Brown hit the game-winner with a three-run double to right field.
“As soon as we got that bunt down and they didn’t get Brooklyn out on the bunt, I felt good about where we were at and what was going to happen,” Gray said. “Then that right fielder took a step in on the shot that Chloe hit, and I wasn’t stopping Brooklyn Farrell for nothing. That was a key time for a junior to step up.”
Swadley said it was a big win for the team. The Lions had only one hit through the first six innings.
“I think a lot of people underestimate our team, but one good thing about us is that no matter how many things go wrong we always fight back and stick together,” she said. “Of course, we would have rather swept them, but I think it speaks a lot for our team that we were able to come back in the seventh inning.”
Sarah Williams pitched the win for the Lions, and Megan Schallom recorded the loss for the Jennies.
The Jennies took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Kristen Heil hit an RBI single to score Alex Groeger. Central Missouri tacked on two more runs in he top of the fourth with an RBI by Jakki Prater and Groeger scoring on a passed ball.
Missouri Southern’s lone run was in the fifth inning when Swadley hit an RBI double to score Alana Hester.
Jessica Wilkes earned the win for Central Missouri, while Kayce Moore suffered the loss for MSSU.
Moore and Hannah Cooke were honored as part of senior day. Missouri Southern also wore pink uniforms to support breast cancer awareness.