TERRE HAUTE, IN – On a weekend meant for the celebration of Sycamore seniors Bailey Martin, Shaye Barton, and Brooke Mann, it was the Missouri State Bears who would do most of the celebrating.
Behind a dominant performance from Steffany Dickerson, Missouri State would start the series off with a bang. After sitting down the Sycamores in order in the bottom of the 1st, Dickerson would put her Bears on the board with a solo blast in the top of the 2nd, her fourth home run of the year.
Looking for another quick inning, Dickerson found herself in a different situation, as she surrendered a leadoff home run to Amanda Guercio. The long ball would be Guercio’s fifth of the year, but would be all the Sycamores could conjure up in game one.
Despite the home run, Dickerson would slam the door shut. Finishing with 6.0 innings pitched, the Bears’ ace would surrender just seven hits, while striking out four Sycamores to earn her 19th win of the season by a score of 7-1.
Game two would be another story of dominant pitching, yet this time it would be in favor of Indiana State.
With the Sycamores needing at least one win in the series to avoid the 10th seed in the MVC tournament and a matchup against the Drake Bulldogs, Abbey Kruzel came to deal.
The sophomore righty from Plainfield, Illinois would have her best outing of the season, pitching 6.1 innings while allowing just 5 hits. The Sycamores would give Kruzel a lead to pitch with in the bottom of the 5th, as Mycaela Miller would smoke a pinch hit double into right field, scoring two.
With a two-run deficit and down to their last three outs, the Bears would attempt to rally. After chasing Kruzel in the top of the 7th, it was now up to Ariel Blankenship to close out the game for Indiana State. Inheriting a bases loaded jam, Blankenship would walk the first batter she faced, scoring a run. The Bears were back in business.
Now a 2-1 ballgame with Missouri State’s top of the order coming to the plate, the Sycamores were inching towards panic mode. However, the Sycamores’ defense had been great all day, and they weren’t finished.
After Kyana Mason grounded into a fielder’s choice to shortstop Mallory Marsicek, the Sycamores needed just one more out for a much needed win. Payton Minnis, the speedy second baseman, would step to the plate. At the time, she was 1-for-3 on the day, and looking to knock in the tying run. Blankenship, however, would induce another grounder to Marsicek, and the shortstop would fire a strike to first base, just beating Minnis to end the game, 2-1. With the series tied, the teams would look towards Saturday for the series finale.
After a beautiful day for softball on Friday, things would drastically change in the weather for game three. What was initially supposed to be an 11 AM ET start was pushed back five hours in the early morning, and scheduled for a 4 PM ET start.
The teams would both turn back to their game one starters, Gabbi Schnaiter for the Sycamores, and Steffany Dickerson for the Bears. Neither would disappoint, surrendering just one run apiece.
Indiana State would take the early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 2nd off a double from freshman Annie Tokarek. It would take a few innings to match, but the Bears would do just that off a sacrifice fly from catcher Alex Boze in the top of the 6th inning. This game had extras written all over it.
After both teams would squander opportunities in both the 7th and 8th innings, the Bears would take advantage in the top of the 9th. Madison Hunsaker would give the advantage to Missouri State with a single through the right side, scoring one, but it would be Rachel Weber to really put the game out of reach.
With two outs, and the Sycamores looking to avoid any further damage, Weber would hit an absolute rocket, doubling into right center and scoring two runs. With the score now 4-1, all the Bears needed was one more dominant inning from starter Steffany Dickerson, and like always, she delivered. Earning her 20th win of the season, Dickerson would pitch all 9.0 innings in game three for Missouri State, clinching back-to-back 30-win seasons for the Bears in the regular-season finale.
For the Sycamores, they finish the season at 5-21 in the MVC, taking the 9th seed, and will take on the 8th seeded Ramblers of Loyola in the first round.
The Bears, however, secured the 5th seed in the MVC tournament at 14-11, and will have a first round bye, facing the winner of Loyola and Indiana State in the second round.