Daphne Plummer tags the runner

Shortstop Daphne Plummer tags a runner sliding into second base.

After hitting its stride last week, the Missouri State softball team returned to Killian Stadium for a three-game set against a Missouri Valley Conference rival.

The Bears hosted Evansville from April 19-20. 

The Purple Aces took advantage of the wind blowing out of Killian Stadium in the doubleheader, muscling up for a combined four home runs and 21 total hits to earn a sweep of Missouri State, 3-1 and 11-7. 

In game one, Evansville scored three runs in the third inning off sophomore Steffany Dickerson and held off a late surge by the Bears to win the opener.

Dickerson went the distance and faced just five over the minimum, striking out three. She also led all players with two hits.

Freshman Alex Boze singled home Missouri State’s only run to make it a 3-1 game. 

But Boze bounced into a game-ending double play in just the fourth home loss of the season for the Bears. 

Missouri State had Evansville on the ropes in game two.

The Bears racked up the fifth-most walks in the NCAA season with 14 free passes issued by the Purple Aces pitchers, but Evansville smacked two home runs in the seventh inning to escape with an 11-7 victory. 

Sophomore Madison Hunsaker was tagged with a pair of earned runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game.

She redeemed herself in the bottom of the frame when she drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Missouri State a 7-6 lead going into the seventh. 

That lead held until the final frame when the Purple Aces scored five times on four hits in the seventh to win it.

Senior Kyana Mason had two hits to lead the Bears while sophomore Kelly Metter and Dickerson each walked three times.

To end the week’s action, Missouri State mounted five hits in the fifth and sixth innings to get within one run of Evansville. 

But the Purple Aces held on down the stretch for a 5-4 victory to secure their first series sweep of the Bears since 2000. 

Evansville posted a 4-0 lead in the second inning after a two-out grand slam from leadoff hitter Eryn Gould — her ninth home run of the year and second of the series. 

The Bears received five quality innings of relief from Hunsaker from there. The left-hander struck out a season-high six batters while surrendering just one run to keep Missouri State within striking distance. 

Offensively, Missouri State tallied 10 hits on the day — its most since April 1 — including three from freshman Payton Minnis.

“I thought we showed a lot of resiliency and a lot of grit after two losses and falling behind again,” Missouri State head coach Holly Hesse said in a press release. “I thought we fought the whole time, and I’m proud of the effort they gave. (Hunsaker) really shut them down through five innings, and I thought Payton (Minnis) was a huge spark for us all day. 

“We just have to keep moving forward.”

With just two series left in the regular season, the Bears now have an overall record of 26-17, 11-8 in the Missouri Valley.

Missouri State currently sits fifth in the conference. 

Missouri State will travel to the University of Missouri - Kansas City on April 23 for its final nonconference game of the year.

They return to Killian Stadium from April 27-28 for a three-game set against first-place Drake.

The Bears will finish off the 2019 campaign at Indiana State, which is scheduled from May 3-4. 

Assuming the season were to end today, Missouri State would draw the fifth-seed in the Missouri Valley Softball Quarterfinals.

They would play the winner of game one in the opening round which is No. 8 Evansville or No. 9 Valparaiso as of right now. 

Derek Shore is a Sports Reporter at The Standard. He is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in communications. He started writing about sports for The Standard during the fall semester of 2018.