In 1992 Missouri Southern made its sixth appearance in eight years in the NAIA or NCAA Division II softball tournament.

The Lions had never finished higher than fourth place at the national level, but they were a confident team in the Division II championship game 28 years ago to the day in Shawnee, Kansas.

"When we got to Sunday, we had played two really good games that showed us we belonged," Lions catcher Diane Miller said last week. "We were nervous and excited, but our nerves and excitement didn't take us out of the game.

"We still played the same game we played all year. Andy rolled ground balls. We put the ball in play, scrapping and clawing for anything we got."

In the type of game that MSSU coach Pat Lipira absolutely loves, the Lions edged Cal State Hayward 1-0 to earn the national title.

"The game has changed so much, you don't see 1-0 games much any more," Lipira said. "I still love that, the strategy of getting those runners moved and getting one across the plate. I sure miss that in the fast pitch game."

Lions pitcher Andrea Clarke Keene wasn't as fond of those games as her coach.

"I was sitting on the bench, doing a lot of praying and chewing my fingernails," Keene said. "I was a nervous wreck."

Keene again was magnificent, allowing seven hits, striking out four batters and walking one. She was aided by double plays in the last two innings while recording her 31st victory and 16th shutout, both still school records.

In three games at the national tournament, Clarke yielded just one run and 15 hits while fanning six and walking one.

"She is such a fierce competitor," Miller said. "She took it personally when somebody got a hit. She took such pride in hitting a spot, putting the ball where it needed to be. She took delight in making hitters hit ground balls. She didn't walk people. She could almost call her shot on who was going to get the ground ball. That was her little bulldog way of competing."

The Lions (50-7) broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth inning. Renee Weih led off with an infield hit, Carrie Carter reached on an outfield error and Sharla Snow singled behind second base to load the bases.

Cindy Cole grounded to third as Weih was forced out at the plate. With the bases still loaded, Lipira called on pinch-hitter Dana Presley.

"I saw Coach looking the dugout," Presley said after the game. "I thought oh, she's looking for me."

On a 1-1 pitch, Presley's grounder went into center field to score Carter, but Snow was thrown out at the plate.

"The second pitch was the one I was looking for, and I missed it," Presley said. "I was nervous. The pitch I hit wasn't real high. It was meat, about right here (waist-high)."

"We needed something to the outfield," Lipira said. "I was hoping for a sacrifice fly, but getting a hit was even better."

Hayward got the tying run to second base with one out in the sixth inning. But second baseman Cole caught a line drive and threw to shortstop Katrina Marshall barely in time for the double play.

"That ball was hit really, really hard to Cindy," Keene said. "It about took her glove off.

"A little insight, when the sixth inning comes, it takes a lot of guts to get out of that inning unless we have a cushion. Knowing we're almost to the seventh, the sixth was hard to do. I was that way in high school, too."

Earlier Cole snagged a hard-hit grounder and threw to first to end the inning.

"Usually with Andrea throwing drop balls, all I get are weak grounders or little loopers," Cole said after the game. "I'm glad I got a chance to prove myself."

The seventh saw Hayward have a runner on first with one out, and the game could not have ended in a more appropriate way for the Lions.

Keene's drop ball produced a ground ball just to the left of second base. Marshall fielded the ball, stepped on second for the second out and threw to first baseman Stacy Harter to complete the game-ending, national-championship winning double play.

"When Katrina made a good throw, we all realized it," Keene said.

In one of the iconic moments in school history, Lipira climbed the fence in front of the dugout and yelled "turn it, turn it" as Marshall made the play.

"It's just special," Lipira said. "That's the only way to say it. Every single season is special, but a national championship is a bonus."

MSSU 1992 Postseason Run

MIAA Tournament

At Shawnee, Kan.

MSSU 7, Northeast Missouri 0

MSSU 5, Central Missouri 1

MSSU 6, Pittsburg State 1

MSSU 7, Pittsburg State 0

Midwest Regional

At Missouri Southern

MSSU 6, Nebraska-Omaha 1

MSSU 7. Augustana 3

MSSU 3, Augustana 1

NCAA Division II Championship

At Shawnee, Kan.

MSSU 8, Saginaw Valley State 1

MSSU 1, Bloomsburg 0

MSSU 1, Cal State Hayward 0

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