MSSU softball sweeps Kearney in weekend doubleheader

Apr. 1—The Missouri Southern State University softball team scored 22 runs and allowed none in a 14-0, 8-0 sweep of the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers on Saturday at Pat Lipira Field.

On Monday, Kara Amos was named the MIAA Hitter of the Week. This is the first time she has received the honor.

Amos, a senior from Independence, batted a team-high .857 in her seven at-bats. She recorded two home runs over the weekend and scored four RBIs and five runs in the six hits she provided. Amos also led the Lions in SLUG percentage with a 1.857 and on-base percentage with a .900.

MSSU freshman pitcher Kiki Pickens (10-5) turned in a one-hit complete game, struck out six and got plenty of run support from Lion bats in a 14-0 run-rule shortened first game of the twin bill.

"It makes me feel even more confident than I already am," Pickens said of the run support and the defense behind her. "Having my teammates behind my back means everything to me. Getting that big lead, I knew I had nothing to worry about."

Pickens gave up her only hit of the game to Kearney lead-off batter Mary Chvatal in the top of the first inning and responded by striking out two of the next three batters she faced. She finished the game with six strikeouts and two walks while facing 18 hitters.

"The special thing about Kiki is — yeah, she's a freshman — but her mentality is not," MSSU head coach Hallie Blackney said. "She's a mature ball player. She wants the ball and she wants to be out there. I'm super proud of her because she is just killing it."

Southern (29-10, 9-3) scored in the bottom of the opening frame with a Katie Gray double that plated Kara Amos and Kylee Jacks. Abby DeSanto brought Gray home with a single to make it 3-0.

The Lions tacked on seven more runs in the bottom of the second inning, sparked by a Yazmin Vargas bases-loaded triple that scored Jacks, Adrianna Young and Kate Thurman. Taylor Nuckolls got in on the slugfest when she drove in Vargas with a single to left field and made it a 7-0 game. The Lions lead swelled to 10-0 off a Gray sacrifice fly that scored Nuckolls and a DeSanto two-run homer over the left field fence that brought Amos home.

Nuckolls scored on a wild pitch and Peyton Hawkins scored when Hanna Duin was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fourth to make it 12-0. Young made it 14-0 with a double to right field that scored Maddie Rolfs and Reese Davis.

Jacks finished 2 for 3 with two runs. DeSanto was 2 for 2 with three RBIs and a run and Young was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and a run. Vargas (1 for 3) and Gray (1 for 1) both recorded three RBIs.

Daniella Morillas (7-7) took the loss for Kearney (13-20, 1-9) after giving up seven runs on six hits in one inning of work.

Game 2

In Game 2, the Lions offense picked up where it left off, scoring two runs in their half of the first inning. Vargas scored on a Nuckolls sacrifice before Amos made it 2-0 with a bomb over the left centerfield fence.

Vargas extended Southern's lead to 3-0 with an RBI single that plated Jacks and then scored on a Gray sacrifice fly to make it a 4-0 Lion lead.

In the bottom of the fifth frame, Gray logged her sixth RBI of the day when she drove home Davis and Nuckolls with a double down the left field line. DeSanto made it 7-0 with a centerfield double that scored Gray and Thurman sealed the run-rule 8-0 win with a bunt single that brought DeSanto home.

Vargas was 2 for 2 with two runs and an RBI. Gray finished 1 for 2 with a run and three RBIs. Vargas, Nuckolls and Davis recorded two stolen bases each.

Amos (7-2) logged the win after giving up one hit, striking out four and walking four in three innings. Avery Tallman gave up one hit, struck out two and walked one in two innings of relief.

"This weekend, all three phases (pitching, hitting, defense) came together," Blackney said. "We've been working toward this all season. Hopefully, this is the beginning of something really good."

The doubleheader sweep extended the Lion win streak to six games. Up next for the Lions, a doubleheader Saturday at Pittsburg State that starts an extended 10-game road trip that will last until MSSU returns to Pat Lipira Field on April 26 to face Central Oklahoma.