by Missouri State Athletics
A two-out RBI single by Madison “Rocket” Hunsaker in the top of the ninth lifted visiting Missouri State to a 4-1 extra-inning victory over Indiana State here Saturday, giving the Bears their 30th win on the final day of the regular season.
Hunsaker’s game-winner broke up a 1-1 tie and came on the heels of an ISU error that put Kyana Mason aboard with one out, followed by a base hit by Payton Minnis. MSU tacked on two more runs later in the inning on a two-out double by Rachel Weber – her third hit of the game — that brought Minnis and Hunsaker around to score and make it 4-1.
MSU starter Steffany Dickerson got a pop out and a pair of ground ball outs in the bottom of the ninth to pick up her 20th victory in the circle. The sophomore right-hander allowed one run over 9.0 innings, walking two and striking out three to improve to 20-10 on the season.
“This was a heck of an effort by Steffany (Dickerson) to get her 20th win and our team’s 30th win of the season,” said MSU head coach Holly Hesse. “I thought she was phenomenal. Our defense was perfect today, and they came up with big play after big play with the game in the balance. We bent but never broke today, and that’s the kind of fight it’s going to take heading into next week’s conference tournament.”
The victory lifted the Bears (30-20, 14-11 MVC) to back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time since the program made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1996 to 1998.
Missouri State collected 10 hits on the afternoon, giving the Bears double-figure hits for the second time in the three-game series. Minnis and Hunsaker accounted for two hits apiece to join Weber in the multi-hit club.
Indiana State took the early lead in the second with a two-out double from Annie Tokarek. With quality pitching from starter Gabbi Schnaiter, the Sycamores’ narrow lead held until the sixth when the Bears tied the game with a sacrifice fly by MSU catcher Alex Boze.
Boze’s deep sac fly to left to brought home Bailey Greenlee who entered the game to pinch run for Hunsaker who started the inning with a hard single up the middle. Greenlee was sacrificed to second by Dickerson and moved to third on a single to left center by Weber.
The Bears put runners on second and third in the top of the seventh after Mason was hit by a pitch and Daphne Plummer reached on an infield error. But Sycamore reliever Abbey Kruzel got a ground ball out to end the Missouri State threat.
Meanwhile, Dickerson and the MSU defense took things to the next level after falling behind early. After Tokarek’s double in the second, Dickerson retired eight in a row before ISU loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Mason threw home for a force play on a grounder by Becky Martin for out No. 2 before Plummer corralled a hot grounder by Shaye Barton to end the inning.
ISU also put runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings, but each time the Bears came up big. Kelly Metter tracked down a deep fly ball, Dickerson snagged a two-out liner through the box, and Mason, Plummer and Minnis refused to let anything through the infield, contributing to 10 stranded Sycamore base runners on the day.
Schnaiter pitched 6.1 innings for Indiana State, giving up six hits, one run, a walk and four strikeouts in a no-decision outing. Kruzel (1-5) took the loss after giving up four hits and three unearned runs in 2.2 innings in relief with two walks. Tokarek and Brooke Mann accounted for two hits apiece for ISU.
The Bears, who are likely to be the No. 5 seed, will open play at the 2019 MVC Championship in Peoria, Ill., on Thursday. A complete bracket will be finalized when league play concludes on Sunday.