Apr. 10—Sophomore third baseman Leighton Withers put it best when her Missouri Southern softball team convened at the end of its first game on Friday at Pat Lipira Softball Complex.
The close games the Lions seemingly fell short in time after time at the beginning of the season? They’re finding ways to win those now.
That’s exactly what Southern did in the first game of its doubleheader against Northeastern State. A walk-off RBI single by freshman right fielder Adrianna Young punctuated a gritty 4-3 win over the RiverHawks to give the Lions their ninth victory in the last 10 games.
“I was really pleased with a lot of things, and especially the way we fought,” MSSU coach Hallie Blackney said. “What Leighton said after that game, that was it. We fought and found ways to win it today, and that’s what good teams do.”
Southern (16-11-1) was involved in another nail-biter in the second game of its twinbill with NSU (19-12-1), but after taking a 3-3 tie into the bottom of the sixth inning, the game was called due to thunderstorms that continued to roll into the Joplin area. The MIAA later announced the game would be counted as a tie.
“It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to finish a really competitive second game,” Blackney said. “It looked like we were going to have a span in there where we could finish the game, but they (the storms) kept back-building to the point where it was time to call it.”
Southern, positioned in seventh in the conference standings, plays host to a Rogers State team that’s sixth in the MIAA today in a doubleheader at Pat Lipira Softball Complex. The first game is slated for a noon start.
“Rogers is a good team that’s having a great year,” Blackney said. “They have a great pitching staff. We’re going to have to have a lot of quality at-bats and string some hits together. and if our pitching continues to do what it’s been doing, we should have two tough ballgames tomorrow.”
MSSU 4, NSU 3
The tightly-contested ballgame from start to finish was highlighted in the bottom of the seventh inning when the Lions scored the go-ahead run they needed in walk-off fashion.
To leadoff the pivotal frame, Yazmin Vargas reached on a fielding error at first base and then advanced to second on a grounder by Makaila Leonhart. The Next at-bat saw NSU record its second out of the inning with a strikeout, and then the RiverHawks opted to intentionally walk Withers to bring Young to the plate with runners on second and first.
“The thing about AD (Young) is that she’s the best teammate you’re going to find,” Blackney said. “You ask any of the girls, they’re all going to tell you the same thing. She does whatever it takes for the team to be the most successful. When it became obvious they were going to walk Leighton to get to her, you could just see that look in her eyes.”
Young took advantage of the opportunity and hit a single to right field to plate Vargas for the MSSU win.
“She embraced the opportunity, put a good swing on the ball and had the clutch hit,” Blackney said. “It was phenomenal.”
Southern finished with eight hits in the game and was led by Young, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI. Vargas went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while Withers, Kristen Wade, and Ashlynn Williams logged one hit apiece.
Bailey Lacy picked up the win after tossing the final two innings for Southern, limiting NSU to one earned run and two hits while striking out three batters.
Abby Atkin started the game and held the RiverHawks to one earned run and four hits in four innings of work, and Abbey Gann tossed one shutout inning in relief.
MSSU 3, NSU 3, 6 1/3
The Lions fell in a 3-0 hole before plating two runs in the fourth and one run in the fifth to pull even with NSU late.
Kara Amos provided the first two runs for the Lions with a two-RBI single to right center in the fourth. Then Josie Tofpi evened up the score in the very next inning with an RBI single to right field.
MSSU reliever Kara Amos played a big part in keeping the RiverHawks at bay in the final three innings that were played as she allowed no runs and no hits while striking out two batters. She retired nine of the 10 batters she faced.
What ended up being Southern’s last opportunity in the bottom of the sixth saw Young fly out for the first out of the frame before the game was suspended and eventually canceled due to the stormy weather conditions.
Vargas, Tofpi, Withers, Amos and Wade logged one hit apiece to pace the MSSU offense.
Bailey Lacy started the game for the Lions and surrendered three earned runs and four hits in three innings. She also struck out three.
Contact Jared Porter on Twitter at @JaredRyanPorter.