With a postseason berth on the line, the Pittsburg State Gorillas took care of business on their home field against the Central Missouri Jennies with a combination of Kyndel Shelburn's pitching, solid defense and timely hitting.
The Gorillas won the first game 2-0 and the second 11-2, extending their winning streak to six after sweeps of Lincoln, Southwest Baptist and Central Missouri.
"We knew what we had to do going into these last six conference games," Pitt State head coach Elizabeth Economon said. "We prepared, they executed well and it's kind of fun."
Pitt State and Central Missouri entered Monday tied for seventh in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association with 14-12 conference marks. Northwest Missouri, 13-13 MIAA, plays Lincoln today. Central Missouri had a one-game lead on Pitt State entering the weekend but the Jennies split their doubleheader Sunday against Missouri Southern.
"We know this is what we've worked for," Economon said. "All you have to do is go. Once you get there, anything can happen. We've played all of the top seven, top eight teams tough . . . I really think we're the last team anybody wants to face up there because we have been highly competitive in all our conference games. I think the kids are very confident and we're excited."
In the opener, Pitt State starter Shelburn and Central Missouri starter Megan Schollom matched goose eggs for several innings.
The Gorillas put together their first attempted rally in the fourth. Catie Cummins battled Schollom for a walk. Kreslee Ketcham sacrificed fellow Neosho (Mo.) product Cummins into scoring position. Tiffany Brown reached on the first Pitt State hit of the game, a single, and moved Cummins to third. However, the inning ended when Katelyn Birchfield lined into a double play by fellow third baseman Emily Bybee-King.
The sixth began promisingly for the Gorillas with a Riley Campbell single hit sharply into center. A wild pitch moved Campbell into scoring position. Brenna George, one of the fastest players in the MIAA, placed a perfect bunt to move over Campbell and get herself on with a single. The Jennies were in a pickle with no outs and made a pitching change, bringing in Katie Shockley.
George stole second on the first pitch and on the next pitch, Cummins blooped one into shallow center to score Campbell and break the stalemate on the scoreboard.
With one down, the bloop single once again was the best friend of the Gorillas as Brown plated George with a ball just past the dirt and into the grass. Pitt State took a 2-0 lead into the seventh.
To start the seventh, Birchfield paid Bybee-King back when she caught Bybee-King's liner. Shelburn fanned Alex Groeger for the second out and No. 5 completed the shutout when Jakki Prater lined out to right fielder Cummins.
Page 2 of 3 - In the second game, Pitt State put two on in the second for Campbell. Kayla Sears was hit by a Jessica Wilkes pitch and Jordan Bradshaw drew a walk. Campbell delivered a single to center to load the bases. However, Central averted danger by striking out George looking on a 3-2 offering.
Pitt State got it started in the third, once again. Ketcham drew a walk and Brown singled but a throwing error by right fielder Medora West moved Ketcham and Brown into scoring position. The Gorillas, once again, left behind multiple runners in scoring position.
The bottom of the Pitt State lineup jumpstarted a rally in the fourth. Bradshaw and Campbell laced back-to-back singles and George loaded up the bases with her second bunt single of the day. With no outs, Pitt State had the bases loaded . . . and after five runners left on the previous two innings, Cummins delivered a two-run single into center. Cummins advanced to second on the throw.
The Jennies called on Shockley in relief to face No. 3 hitter Ketcham. Down 1-2, Ketcham delivered a RBI double. Shockley hit Brown to load the bases and bring up Birchfield with one down. Birchfield hit a RBI single to left. With two down, Sears maintained the onslaught with a two-run single. The fourth ended with Pitt State taking a 6-0 lead.
"The offense has been showing its true colors of late," Economon said. "This second game today was very indicative of what we're capable of, so we've been coming back around after a lull in the middle. They went to work and battled through some tough counts. They put the ball into play where they needed and we got a few clutch hits. It's nice . . . everything's right on schedule."
Shelburn took a no-hitter into the fifth but that was broken up by a Jill Lucas home run and this solo homer also ended Shelburn's 18 1/3 scoreless innings streak. Ashlea Bengtson hit a second homer in the fifth.
"I mean, 12 innings, six hits, two hits . . . not too bad," Economon said. "Even the two hits that scored runs, I didn't feel like they were anything to worry about. She was pretty much clicking on all cylinders. It was nice to see."
After two home runs by the Jennies in the fifth, Pitt State was not to be left out, as Ketcham deposited a Shockley pitch over the wall in left center for a two-run homer.
Not to be outdone, fellow senior Sears blasted a three-run walk-off home run in her final plate appearance at the PSU Softball Complex. Both Ketcham and Sears homered during their final home at-bats; Sears drove in five on Monday.
Pitt State ends its regular season with a 28-20 overall, 16-12 MIAA record. The six-game winning streak pushed the home record to 11-9 and the Gorillas have winning home (11-9), road (13-10) and neutral (4-1) records.
Page 3 of 3 - vs. Southwest Baptist 8-0, 9-0
The Gorillas plowed through the Bearcats in two five-inning run-rule games Sunday afternoon, plating 17 runs on 20 hits and five Bearcat errors.
In the opener, seniors Kreslee Ketcham and Katelyn Birchfield each hit two-run homers and junior Tiffany Brown added a third two-run shot. Ketcham picked up a RBI single. George stole three bases.
In the nightcap, Brown led the way with three RBI, highlighted by a two-run homer. Brenna George, Birchfield and Riley Campbell each drove in two. Birchfield knocked her second two-run home run and every single one of the Gorillas' five homers were two-run blasts.
Southwest Baptist dropped to 4-46 overall, 0-26 in the MIAA and its losing streak extended to 40 games. The Bearcats closed out their regular season Monday against Missouri Southern in Joplin.
Pittsburg State 2, Central Missouri 0
UCM 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
PSU 000 002 X — 2 5 1
Megan Schallom, Katie Shockley (6) and Jill Lucas. Kyndel Shelburn and Kayla Sears. WP: Shelburn (11-8). LP: Schallom (2-9). E: Medora West; Kreslee Ketcham. SH: Ketcham. SB: Brenna George.
Pittsburg State 11, Central Missouri 0 (5 innings)
UCM 000 02 — 2 3 1
PSU 000 65 — 11 15 1
Jessica Wilkes, Katie Shockley (4), Sarah Espy (5) and Jill Lucas. Kyndel Shelburn and Kayla Sears. WP: Shelburn (12-8). LP: Wilkes (7-3). E: Medora West; Kreslee Ketcham. 2B: Ketcham. HR: Ketcham, Sears; Lucas, Ashlea Bengtson. SB: Brenna George. HBP: Sears, Tiffany Brown, Jordan Bradshaw.
Pittsburg State 8, Southwest Baptist 0 (5 innings)
SBU 000 00 — 0 4 1
PSU 212 3X — 8 12 0
Lyndie Routh, Jamie Penick (3) and Hailey Turner. Kyndel Shelburn, Haleigh Sills (5) and Kayla Sears. WP: Shelburn (10-8). LP: Routh (0-17). E: Alandria Jensen. HR: Kreslee Ketcham, Tiffany Brown, Katelyn Birchfield. SB: Brenna George 3, Jordan Bradshaw.
Pittsburg State 9, Southwest Baptist 0 (5 innings)
SBU 000 00 — 0 4 4
PSU 007 2X — 9 8 0
Cendyl Carter and Nikki Jeffries. Samantha Grove and Kayla Sears. WP: Grove (7-3). LP: Carter (4-22). E: Caitlyn Cooner 2, Alandria Jensen, Londyn Backfisch. 2B: Brenna George. HR: Tiffany Brown, Katelyn Birchfield. SF: Brown. CS: Stef Lischke. HBP: Carter.