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Saturday Sports Wrap: MSU Softball Bears win Valley Championship and NCAA bid

by MSU Sports Information, Springfield Cardinals, Joe Hickman

May 14, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Missouri State (29-23) exploded for four runs in the top of the sixth to help the Bears to a 7-4 victory over Drake here Saturday in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The victory marked the club's sixth MVC Tournament title and propelled the Bears to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

The Bears struck first with a two-run homer in the top of the third by Stevie Pierce, her third of the season.

Drake (34-21) answered with a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth off the bat of Jordan Gronewold, her ninth of the season, but MSU was up to the task and got a bases-load single from Heather Duckworth in the fifth to regain a two-run lead, 3-1.

Missouri State opened the flood gates in the sixth as it sent eight hitters to the plate and collected five hits, including a two-run single by Pierce off Jenna DeLong who was chased in the fifth and then re-entered to face Pierce.  Ashley Knehans and Raeven Replogle also had RBI singles in the inning as the Bears built a 7-1 lead.

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From there, tournament MVP Natalie Rose put the finishing touches on the title. She finished with five strikeouts and improved to 22-19 on the season, pitching all 28 innings of the tournament, including a pair of shutouts on Thursday.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Senior right-hander Blake Barber allowed a run in eight innings and Dan Kickham pitched a scoreless ninth for his 12th save as the Missouri State men's baseball team  held off Bradley 2-1 in game two of the Missouri Valley Conference series Saturday afternoon at Hammons Field.

    Missouri State (29-18, 10-6 MVC) got all the scoring it needed in the fourth when Brent Seifert drew a leadoff walk and scored on Luke Voit’s double that one-hopped off the wall in right center. Voit moved to third on the play when the right fielder bobbled the ball and scored on a Spiker Helms RBI single for a 2-0 lead.

    Barber (7-3) took a shutout into the sixth before yielding a two-out RBI double to Greg Partyka for a 2-1 score, but the Braves stranded runners on second and third in the sixth and another runner on third in the seventh to miss out on a pair of scoring chances.

    Barber completed the eighth with five strikeouts, eight hits and a walk before Kickham closed, working around a one-out double in the ninth to pull within a save of Shaun Marcum’s season record of 13.

    Bradley (22-25, 4-13) starter Tory Doerr (2-3) came within one out of a complete game, scattering five hits and three walks.

    The Bears go for their first MVC sweep of the year Sunday at 12 p.m. Barber and fellow seniors J.C. Casey, Aaron Conway and Tyler Paxson will be honored before the game.

Drake tried to mount a furious comeback late and notched three runs in the final two innings behind three doubles. But MSU held strong and Rose got Sam West to ground out to Kirstin Cutter to end the game.

As the No. 5 seed, MSU had to win four straight games to secure the title and never trailed in 28 innings of tournament play. Holly Hesse's squad also became just the second tournament host in Valley history to win a tournament title.

Eight different Bears collected hits in the game, including two apiece by Tyler Porter, Pierce and Christa Gammon. Pierce finished with a game-high four RBI.  All-tournament honors went to Rose, Knehans, Porter and Duckworth.

The No. 2 seeded Bulldogs got two hits apiece from Jenna DeLong, Amy Pierce, McClelland, and Gronewold.

Missouri State will now await the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU to determine their regional opponents and site. This is the sixth NCAA Tournament appearance for Missouri State, but first since 2006.

SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State University men's basketball coach Paul Lusk announced late Saturday the signing of junior college forward Corbin Thomas to a National Letter of Intent to play for the Bears.

Thomas is a 6-foot-6, 220-pound NJCAA All-America who led Southwestern Illinois Community College in Belleville to a 20-10 season in 2010-11. He averaged 14.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Blue Storm as a sophomore, earning first-team all-conference and third-team All-America distinction.  He also led the club in field goal percentage at .642 and was runner-up for NJCAA Region 24 Player of the Year. He was also runner-up for the Great Rivers Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

"Corbin is a great player and a great individual who will help our team in a number of ways," Lusk said. "I want to welcome him to the Bears' family and am very excited about what he brings to our program."

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