SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Natalie Rose
turned in the 13th no-hitter in Missouri State softball history, and Jenna Schwark
enjoyed a monster day at the plate to propel the Bears to a doubleheader sweep of Evansville Saturday afternoon at Killian Stadium to open their final three-game Missouri Valley Conference series of the season.
Behind Rose's first career no-hitter, the Bears pulled out a 1-0 victory in the opening game, then rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning of the second contest to overcome a late two-run deficit and escape with a 4-3 win.
Schwark played a starring role in both MSU victories, going 5-for-6 with a pair of RBIs on the day. The senior sparked both game-clinching rallies, leading-off the Bears' seventh with a single in the opener, then hitting her second home run of the season to ignite their three-run sixth in the second contest.
Rose (17-19), who gave up just two walks and a hit batsman while fanning five hitters, needed only 91 pitches to complete the first no-hitter by a Missouri State pitcher since February 11, 2007, when Melissa Porche stymied Central Arkansas, 6-0.
Madison Hargrove made a winner out of her battery mate with a two-out, bases-loaded single to left field in the bottom of the seventh that brought home Ashley Brentz with the game's only run.
After beaning Alicia Betancur to start the first, Rose retired the next 10 Purple Aces in succession before issuing a one-out walk to Jen Stahlhut in the fourth. The Bears would give the Aces baserunners via errors in both the fifth and seventh innings, but UE failed to take advantage in each instance.
The victory did not come easily for the Bears, however. Evansville starting pitcher Emily Morris nearly matched Rose pitch-for-pitch through much of the contest, allowing just three hits through six innings before MSU rallied to put a notch in the win column for the first time since April 20.
The Bears key inning started with a lead-off single to left off the bat of Schwark, who then moved up to second on Ashley Knehans' sacrifice bunt. MSU caught a break when Morris fielded a ground ball from Savannah Wiggins, but was indecisive in making a play on the lead runner, thus allowing Wiggins time to reach base safely. Heather Duckworth hit a routine grounder that resulted in the second out of the inning when third baseman Ashleigh Rahming fired home to nail Schwark attempting to score.
But Hargrove came through with her second safety of the game and just the third MSU hit with the bases loaded this season to end the contest and the Bears' losing streak.
Game two featured another pitcher's duel in the early innings, with Rose once again taking the circle for the Bears. MSU didn't waste any time in scoring this time, as Tyler Porter reached base on a one-out bunt single in the first off of UE starter Taylor Perry, stole second and came around on Schwark's base hit to right field for an early 1-0 lead.
Rose would keep the Aces off the scoreboard unitl the fourth, when Stahlhut led-off the frame by sending a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right for her fifth homer of the season.
UE would continue to threaten in the inning after Amy Gaertner followed Stahlhut's shot with a double to left. However, Duckworth came up with a momentum-shifting defensive play, fielding a ground ball from Allison Aguilera and nailing Gaertner in between second and third, then taking the return throw and catching the batter in a rundown for the second out.
Evansville would take advantage of a two-out fielding error in the fifth to break the 1-1 tie, claiming a two-run advantage on a ground ball that Kirstin Cutter couldn't handle at short.
But Schwark got the MSU bats going in the sixth, bashing Perry's first pitch well over the left-field fence to cut the deficit in half. Knehans and Wiggins followed with singles, and Replogle's sacrifice attempt was handled by Aguilera, but the first baseman fired the ball wide of the bag to allow pinch runner Kerri Cunningham to score the equalizing run. Duckworth then delivered what would prove to be the game-winning RBI with a ground out to second that allowed Wiggins to trot home.
Wiggins (7-3), who took over for Rose in the sixth, made the lead stand, completing the victory with a one-two-three seventh.
With the two victories, the Bears put to rest a six-game losing streak and enter the series finale tied with Creighton for the fifth spot in the MVC standings. The Bears (24-23, 12-11 MVC) will close out the regular season Sunday at noon when they will take on the Purple Aces (12-41, 6-20 MVC) in a single contest.