The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 9, 2014

Gorillas sweep softball slugfests from Lions

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A pair of rally attempts fell short as the Missouri Southern Lions were swept by Pittsburg State in an MIAA doubleheader Wednesday at the PSU Softball Complex.

The Gorillas held on to win 10-9 and 11-7, earning the softball point in the Sonic Trophy Series. Pittsburg State leads the annual series between the rivals 5-4 with four points still to be awarded.

Missouri Southern (14-28, 6-12 MIAA) trailed by as many as seven runs in the first game and eight in the second. However, the Lions scored seven runs over the final two innings of the opener and six runs over the final three innings of the nightcap to keep things interesting.

“This group is a resilient bunch of young women,” Missouri Southern coach Bill Gray said. “They fight hard with their back up against the wall. They do a lot of good things. We just have to be able to put seven innings of it together. That’s where we come up short.”

After trailing 9-2 through five innings of the opener, Missouri Southern got back in the game with a five-run sixth inning that included a grand slam from Shelby Romines.

Pittsburg State (21-21, 7-11) added an insurance run on an RBI single from Kylie Guthier in the bottom of the sixth to go up 10-7.

Michala Wood’s two-run single in the top of the seventh cut Missouri Southern’s deficit to 10-9. With only one out and two runners on, Chloe Brown bunted to move the runners. That left the Lions with two outs and two runners in scoring position with sluggers Romines and Dawn Grass coming up to bat.

But Romines grounded out to end the game.

“I thought I had a good idea, but I gave up an out,” Gray said. “My mind was that Shelby Romines hit a home run in her last at-bat. Dawn Grass had a big hit her last at-bat. Who are you going to pitch to? But it didn’t work out. I gave up an out down two runs, and I can’t do that. So that bullet is mine.”

The Gorillas jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the second game, which included fourth-inning home runs from Tiffany Brown and Guthier.

Missouri Southern responded in the top of the fifth when Grass blasted a three-run homer over the left-field fence. The homer, which extended Grass’ school record to 28 in her career, allowed the Lions to avoid the game ending by the run rule in the fifth inning. MSSU took advantage of two errors and a wild pitch to make it a 9-6 game in the top of the sixth.

Guthier gave PSU insurance runs again with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to make it 11-6.

“It’s always an adventure,” Pittsburg State coach Elizabeth Economon said. “It’s the way it’s been for a lot of the games in the conference this year. It’s kind of the name of the game ... hit big and hold on for dear life.

“We’re happy with our offensive production. We were able to shut them down enough to squeak out a couple wins. We just preach to grind every pitch and to not give up until somebody says, ‘ball game.’ ”

The two teams combined for 37 runs and 51 hits over the doubleheader. Grass and Romines led Missouri Southern with four hits and four RBI each.

Brown, who extended her PSU records to 22 homers on the season and 51 for her career, was 4-for-7 with four RBI and five runs scored over the doubleheader. Pittsburg State combined for four home runs on the day to give it 55 homers for the season. The Gorillas need five more homers to set a team single-season record.

Missouri Southern will be at home Friday against Fort Hays State. Pittsburg State will be at home Friday against Nebraska-Kearney, a twinbill moved up two days from the original date. Both teams need hot streaks down the stretch to have a chance at making the MIAA Postseason Tournament.

“This is not what we were looking for,” Gray said. “We’re going to play a good Fort Hays team on Friday and a good Kearney team on Saturday. We made our bed and now we have to work at it. We have to win out or close to it to give ourselves a shot. They work hard and bust their butt, and they deserve a better reward. I hope we can put something together at the end of the year that makes it feel better.”

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