The Missouri Southern softball team moved into a tie for first place with Central Oklahoma in the MIAA after a sweep of Rogers State on Sunday at Pat Lipira Field in Joplin.
The Lions (7-1, 22-7) beat the Hillcats 6-3 in the opener before blanking nationally ranked No. 2 Rogers State 4-0 in the nightcap.
In game one, the Lions rode the strength of a six-run second inning to claim the win.
The Hillcats (7-1, 21-4) struck first, tallying two runs in the first inning. Chelsea Spain singled down the right field line before a Bridgett Morales double drove in Spain for the Hillcats’ first run. Morales was plated via a Lana Gass single, giving Rogers State a 2-0 led going into the Lions half of the inning.
The Lions were held scoreless in the first frame and returned the favor in the top of the second inning, sending the Hillcats down in order.
Southern’s Kara Amos led off with a walk on four straight pitches to start the bottom of the second. Katie Gray took a one-out walk before an Adrianna Young single scored Amos. The Lions took the lead for good off an Emily Perry double to center field that plated Young and Gray, and the Lions were up 3-2.
The Lions weren’t done yet. Yazmin Vargas’ single advanced Perry to third base, before Rogers State starter Courtney Hill was pulled for Sara Llamas-Howell. After a Vargas steal of second base, Josie Tofpi drove in Vargas and Perry with a single to left and MSSU increased its lead to 5-2.
Leighton Withers singled, advancing Tofpi to second base before Ashlynn Williams drove in Tofpi with a single up the middle, giving the Lions a 6-2 cushion.
Southern held the Hillcats scoreless in the third and fourth innings before Rogers State put up a run in the fifth. A pinch-hit double by Ashtyn Barrett led off the inning. Nicole Price replaced Barrett at second as a pinch runner before scoring off another Morales’ double.
Neither team scored the remainder of the game and the Lions claimed a 6-3 win in the opener, while outhitting the Hillcats 10-8.
Avery Tallman (12-2) logged the win, pitching five innings while giving up eight hits and three runs. Bailey Lacy pitched two innings, striking out three of the six Hillcat batters she faced before making her game two start.
Perry went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs, while Tofpi added 2 RBIs, going 1-3 at the plate. Young was 2 for 2 with an RBI and Withers also was 2 for 2 at the plate.
Lacy (6-0) recorded a complete game, 4-0 shut out in game two of the twin bill, striking out four while walking two and giving up six hits. The four strikeouts were enough to move the Hays, Kansas, senior into third place in career strikeouts for the Lions.
Lacy shared postgame accolades with her teammates.
“Knowing that I have a phenomenal defense behind me allows me to be able to trust what I have and work my balls through the zone, knowing that if they out it in play, our defense is going to have my back,” Lacy said.
Southern stuck early after holding the Hillcats scoreless in the opening frame. Perry led off with a single before stealing second. Vargas walked and advanced to second on a Tofpi groundout to Rogers State pitcher Jade Sanders that advanced Perry to third base. Perry scored on fielders choice after a Williams at-bat. The Lions led 1-0 going into the top of the second inning.
After the game, Perry talked about stealing home.
“Coach called a timeout and said, ‘Leighton (who was at first base), make them throw it, make them throw it — and be aggressive.’ She (RSU catcher Callie Yellen) threw it, and I was just hoping she wasn’t faking it and I ran home. All I could say was, ‘Thank goodness.’” Perry said.
Neither team put a run across in the second inning and MSSU also held Rogers State scoreless in the third, before plating three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Perry led off with a bunt single, followed by a Vargas 11-pitch walk. Perry reached third on a fielders’ choice and stole home to give the Lions a 2-0 lead. A Williams double to left centerfield drove in Withers, who had reached base earlier on the fielders’ choice. An Amos single plated Withers to give the Lions their 4-0 lead and close out scoring for both teams.
“We have such good chemistry on this team,” Perry said. “We always put each other first. We really work hard and I feel we deserve these four wins this weekend.”
The two wins Sunday followed a Saturday doubleheader sweep of Northeastern Oklahoma State (Tahlequah) giving the Lions four wins in two days.
“The end result are the dubs, but what is amazing is how we went about doing it and the process that went into the four dubs. It was one-plus-one-plus-one-plus one that got us four wins.” MSSU head coach Hallie Blackney said. “I’m really proud of the maturity of our team and how we are able to focus on the little things.”
Next up or the Lions, a doubleheader in Kearney against Nebraska-Kearney on Friday, followed by a twin bill Saturday in Hays against Fort Hays State. Southern returns home Saturday, April 8, for a doubleheader with rival Pittsburg State at Pat Lipira Field.
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