by Missouri State Athletics
Kyana Mason sprinted home from third base on a Northern Iowa wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning to score the winning run in a 3-2 Missouri State walk-off victory here Sunday. The dramatic win marked No. 800 for MSU head coach Holly Hesse’s career.
“It’s the product of a long career and a great staff,” said Hesse, who is in her 31st season as head coach at Missouri State. “(Associate head coaches) Sue Frederick and Beth Perine are a huge part of the success of this program, and a lot of great players have come through our program and gotten us to this moment.”
MSU starter Steffany Dickerson (12-4) went the distance, striking out five and allowing just two UNI hits on the afternoon to avenge her 2-0 loss to the Panthers on Saturday. She faced just 24 batters and did not walk anyone to lift Missouri State (19-11, 5-2 MVC) to the win.
“The two-hitter by Steff was huge,” said Hesse. “I thought she was dominating. We kept the ball in the park, and our defense was amazing. We made some really great plays, and that was really the difference.”
UNI (13-11, 4-2 MVC) put up the game’s first two runs in the fourth inning after Dickerson hit Sammey Bunch with a pitch with one out then surrendered back-to-back singles to Adara Opiola and Courtney Krodinger to break up the scoreless game. Ashley Chesser then made it 2-0 on a sacrifice fly to right to score Opiola.
But that was all the noise the visitors would make the rest of the day. Dickerson dug in and retired the final 11 hitters she faced, keeping the UNI batters off balance while getting a myriad of defensive support from her teammates.
Meanwhile, the Bears had hits in every inning Sunday, leaving five on base before posting single tallies in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to win it.
An RBI double by Kyana Mason plated Payton Minnis for the Bears’ first run in the fifth. In the sixth, it was freshman Alex Boze delivering with a two-out single to send Darby Joerling to the plate and collect her third RBI of the series.
Finally in the seventh, with the game tied, 2-2, Mason once again ignited the Bears, smashing a leadoff hit up the middle before Plummer bunted her way aboard to put two on with no outs. Dickerson then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners into scoring position for Madison Hunsaker.
After the Panthers fell behind in the count to Hunsaker, they decided to intentionally walk her to load the bases. But the 2-1 pitch from Panthers’ reliever Emma Olejniczak (5-4) sailed all the way to the backstop, sending Mason home for the walk-off victory.
“Mason has taken our senior leadership on her shoulders and her play is making a difference for us on both offense and defense,” said Hesse. “With all our injuries, she is our only active senior, and her play this weekend was fantastic.”
Mason finished the series 6-for-12 after a perfect 4-for-4 day on Sunday. She became the first Bear this season to collect four hits in a game.
Plummer and Rachel Weber also had two hits for the Bears on the afternoon.
For Hesse, who has spent her entire head coaching career at MSU, she started the season 32nd on the NCAA Division I active wins list and is just the second Valley coach, along with Illinois State’s Melinda Fischer, to reach 800 career victories.
The Bears will close out the month of March with a three-game conference series at Valparaiso, next Saturday and Sunday. MSU’s next home game is set for Tuesday, April 2 vs. Arkansas at 5 p.m.