SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Missouri State softball (15-15, 5-2 MVC) clinched its second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference series with a pair of walk-off wins over Evansville (15-13, 1-4 MVC) here Saturday.
In the circle, Gracie Johnston earned both wins on the day, improving to 8-5 on the season. Johnston did not allow a run in 11.1 innings of work, while scattering five hits and striking out eight batters.
At the plate, Alex Boze and Ellie McCoy were the heroes on the day with Boze knocking a walk-off double to left center field in game one, before McCoy laid down the game-winning bunt in the 10th inning in the nightcap.
Game 1: Missouri State 1, Evansville 0
The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader was a true pitcher’s duel as both teams combined for just five hits and one run.
Both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively as the Bears managed just four baserunners in the first six innings, while Evansville only had three for the game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning with the game still knotted at 0-0, McKenzie Vaughan sent a one-out single to right field with Boze coming to the plate. Boze delivered the game-winning hit, smacking a double to left center field, scoring pinch-runner Chloe Merced from first base to secure the 1-0 victory in the series opener.
Johnston tossed a gem in the circle, pitching a one-hit shutout while walking one and striking out four Purple Aces to earn her seventh victory of the season.
Game 2 (10 Innings): Missouri State 3, Evansville 2
In the nightcap, the Bears once again had a flare for the dramatics with a 10-inning, walk-off victory.
Evansville hopped on the board first in the second inning via a MSU error and an RBI-single down the left field line to take an early 1-0 lead over the Bears.
Missouri State quickly responded in the home half of the second with the Bears drawing back-to-back walks to lead off the inning. McCoy then dropped a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position, before Annie Mueller sent a sacrifice fly to right field to score pinch-runner Kat Taylor and tie the game at 1-1.
The Purple Aces put together a two-out rally in the fourth, knocking a single and a double to take a 2-1 lead in Springfield. Fortunately, the Bears once again had an answer. In the bottom of the fourth, Vaughan launched a leadoff homer over the wall in center field to once again tie the ballgame.
Following the fourth inning, both squads were locked in a stalemate as the game entered extra innings still tied at 2-2. Both teams had their chances as Evansville stranded eight runners while MSU left five runners on base over the final six innings.
The Bears led off the 10th with an Olivia Krehbiel walk, before Merced reached on an error and Boze was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. McCoy then strolled to the plate and laid down the walk-off bunt single, scoring Krehbiel, to secure the series win for Missouri State and push the Bears’ win streak to six games.
Vaughan drew the start in the circle, allowing just one earned run while allowing three hits and striking out five Purple Aces in 3.2 innings. Mackenzie Chacon then came on in relief, tossing two shutout innings before the Bears turned to Johnston to close it out.
Johnston pitched the final 4.1 innings, giving up zero runs on four hits and striking out four to earn her second victory of the day and team-leading eighth win of the season.
Missouri State and Evansville will close out the series tomorrow (March 26) at Killian Stadium in Springfield. First pitch is for 12 p.m. CT.