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MSSU softball team starts season 5-0 after Arkansas tournament

Feb. 4—The Missouri Southern Softball team opened its 2024 season by winning both games Friday in the Ronnie Hawkins/Mike McGhee Memorial Tournament in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Lions also won the next three games of the tournament on Saturday and Sunday, finishing at 5-0 for the season so far.

Southwestern Oklahoma

The Bulldogs scored first, in the bottom of the first, but it was the Lions after that, winning 9-1 in six innings.

Southern's Katie Gray followed up with a solo home run in the top of the second to tie the game at 1-1. In the top of the third, Emily Perry doubled to right-center to bring in Taylor Nuckolls, who had singled prior, for a Southern 2-1 lead.

In the fourth inning, a Madison Grimes' hit for Southern brought in Peyton Hawkins. Adrianna Young then doubled to right field, scoring Carsen Tinkler. A Yazmin Vargas bunt brought in Grimes. Nuckolls then hit a triple into center field that drove in Vargas and Young. Perry then hit a single to right-center, driving in Nuckolls, giving the Lions and 8-1 lead.

A bases-loaded walk later gave the Lions one more run as they went on to run-rule win.

Kiki Pickens got the win on the mound for the Lions as she pitched all six innings, allowing only two hits and one earned run while getting six strikeouts on a 1.17 ERA.

Arkansas Monticello

In the second game of the tournament, the Lions beat Arkansas-Monticello 8-0.

In the first inning, a Nuckolls triple drove in two Lions, giving MSSU a 2-0 lead.

The next score in the sixth inning began with another RBI for Nuckolls as she doubled to center field to bring in Vargas. Perry then had the Lions first home run of the season and brought in Nuckolls and herself. Gray hit a single to center field that drove in Kylee Jacks, who had singled to center just a batter before. Hawkins was able to score on a passed ball after reaching third on two wild pitches. After a double by Abby DeSanto to left-center field, Kathryn Flowers hit a single to drive DeSanto in to give the Lions a 8-0 lead after six innings.

Avery Tallman started the game and was credited the win after throwing 3.2 innings and only giving up two hits while striking out two batters. Tallman and reliever Natalie Bates combined for the shutout victory, only allowing three hits in the game off of 23 Blossom at-bats.

Henderson State

The Lions played one game Saturday in Arkadelphia, winning 12-7.

Southern got out to 1-0 lead at the top of the first inning with a Nuckolls single driving in Vargas. The Reddies returned with a run of their own to tie the game at 1-1.

Kara Amos began the second inning with a solo home run over the left field fence, but the Reddies replied with a homer of their own, tying the game at 2-2 after two innings.

In the third inning, Grimes was able to reach home on an error. Flowers followed with a single driving in Jacks, who had reached third on the previous throwing error. After Reese Davis singled to shortstop, a wild pitch brought in Hawkins who was pinch running for Flowers. Young added to the Lions lead with a double to left field, driving in Davis to bring the Lions lead to 6-3 at the top of the fourth.

The Reddies got another run in the fourth inning, but the Lions took advantage of errors and wild pitches for four more runs to bring their lead to 10-4.

The Reddies scored three more runs later in the game, but the Lions added two more runs of their own in the sixth.

Tallman was credited with her second straight win this season, relieving Kiki Pickens in the fourth inning and only giving up one earned run while striking out a batter in one full inning pitched. Pickens, Allman and Lauren Fuller combined for nine strikeouts in the win.

On Sunday, the Lions scored another victory over Henderson State, 6-5 in nine innings.

In that game, Natalie Bates (1-0) got the win on the day as she was the third reliever of the game for the Lions and pitched 1.2 innings and gave up zero hits or runs and struck out one batter in the four that she faced.

Ouachita Baptist

The Lions won their last game of the tournament 13-0 in five innings.

Vargas was the first to score in the first inning. Southern scored six runs in the second inning off two RBIs from a Tinkler single, an RBI from Nuckolls, Amos and DeSanto, and a throwing error bringing the score to 7-0.

In the third inning, Vargas hit an inside-the-park home run, scoring two runs. DeSanto cleared the left field fence and combined with Vargas for four of the five runs in the inning, the fifth coming from a Perry double to give the Lions a 12-0 lead after three innings. The Lions added a final run in the fifth and got their third run-rule win of the tournament.

Bates (2-0) got another win on the day as she started the game and pitched 2.0 innings, giving up only one hit while striking out four batters of the seven she faced. Bates and Lily Rand combined for eight strikeouts in the shutout victory.