EDITOR'S NOTE: While the coronavirus pandemic ended Missouri Southern's softball season two months ago, let's review the Lions' remarkable postseason run in 1992.
One day after rapping 13 hits and scoring eight runs to open the NCAA Division II Softball Championships, Missouri Southern suffered through a frustrating offensive game.
The Lions were aggressive on the bases early but had runners thrown out at home plate in the second inning and at third base in the third. Then in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings the Lions advanced runners into scoring position but could not deliver the two-out hit.
Meanwhile, MSSU pitcher Andrea Clarke Keene held Bloomsburg (Pa.) scoreless on five hits, and the way she was dealing, the Lions believed they would eventually win.
"We had opportunities to score earlier and didn't," catcher Diane Miller said. "I kept telling Andy 'give us another chance and we'll get it.' She threw lights out, and we had a couple of really good defensive plays."
Finally in the bottom of the seventh Krissy Konkol came through with the clutch hit, a two-out single to score the only run in a 1-0 decision that put the Lions in the championship game at the Johnson County Girls Softball Complex in Shawnee, Kansas, on May 16, 1992.
Sharla Snow, who made a leaping catch at third base in the top of the inning, drew a walk to start the Lions' seventh. She advanced to second on Cindy Cole's sacrifice and took third on Stacy Harter's grounder to second.
Konkol, a senior from Webb City, grounded a 3-2 pitch into left field for her first hit of the tournament, igniting a postgame celebration by the Lions after their 49th victory.
"I was thinking this could be my last chance," Konkol said after the game. "It's my senior year, and this could be it."
Before getting the hit, Konkol stepped out of the batter's box a couple of times.
"She kept shaking off pitches," Konkol said. "She shook off three pitches in a row, and I was not going to sit in there all day. I was nervous enough as it was."
"The bottom of the lineup came through," coach Pat Lipira said. "Krissy Konkol stepped in and got the hit when we had to have it. And Cindy Cole's bunt was critical. It was a team effort."
Keene did not strike out or walk a batter while notching her 30th victory, but her drop ball was working. She retired 13 batters on ground balls and caught a line drive to start a double play.
"She just didn't miss," said Miller, who went 3-for-3 including a single to left field for career hit No. 200. "Her level was always right. Once she got ahead in the count, you were going to hit her pitch. She had a very good drop ball. Hitters who thought they were on a ball would top the ball nine times out of 10 because it dropped so drastically. It didn't matter if they were up in the box, in the middle of the box or the back of the box. She was going to figure it out and make them miss or hit the top of it."
The Lions had great fan support,
"We had a lot of people following us," Keene said. "It was not just the parents. A lot of people made the trip, too."
"It was as close to a home field advantage that Missouri Southern could have felt," Miller said. "You can say it's just another game, but it's not. The stakes are higher, and you feel that. That home feel certainly was an advantage for us that year."
The stakes reached their highest point the next day as the Lions faced Cal State Hayward in a matchup of 49-win teams for the national championship.
MSSU 1992 Postseason Run
MSSU 7, Northeast Missouri 0
MSSU 5, Central Missouri 1
MSSU 6, Pittsburg State 1
MSSU 7, Pittsburg State 0
MSSU 6, Nebraska-Omaha 1
MSSU 7. Augustana 3
MSSU 3, Augustana 1
NCAA Division II Championship
MSSU 8, Saginaw Valley St. 1
MSSU 1, Bloomsburg 0
MSSU 1, Cal State Hayward 0