SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Postseason softball leaves little room for mistakes, and the third-seeded Midland University softball team learned that on Monday in their opening round game in the 2019 NAIA Tournament.
The No. 25 Warriors (31-11 overall) dropped the opening game of the Springfield Bracket to No. 14-ranked Baker University (46-7 overall) after a four-run fifth inning propelled second-seeded the Wildcats to a 6-1 victory.
“We need to do a better job of committing to a plan and making adjustments at the plate,” said Midland head coach Mike Heard after a disappointing offensive showing. “I believe we will do that and compete very well in our games tomorrow.”
Game one was a pitcher’s duel through four innings as Midland’s Jaylee Hinrichs went toe-to-toe with Baker’s Olivia Brees. Combined, the two allowed only one runner to move into scoring position in the first four and a half innings.
The Wildcats flipped the script in the bottom of the fifth and began to string together good at bats versus Midland’s powerful senior. Two well-placed infield singles, a fielder’s choice, and a stolen base led to a pivotal situation in the game with two outs and runners on the corners.
Jazzmine Thorpe batted for Baker and laced a ball toward the right centerfield gap. Midland’s right fielder Jamie Phares made a diving attempt, but the ball bounced off the end of her glove and allowed Tiana Tinari to score from third.
The Wildcats took advantage of the opportunity and added three more runs as Riley Swickard tripled to left centerfield in the next at bat as Bobbi Singleton and Andrea Cespedes miscommunicated in the outfield. The throw back into the infield got away from the Warriors long enough to allow Swickard to trot home, giving Baker a 4-0 lead.
Eva Gonzalez added to the Baker lead with a two-run home run in the sixth inning, her seventh of the season, to extend the lead to 6-0 after Megan Porche was hit by a pitch.
Midland finally got something going against Brees in the seventh inning as Katlin Anders led off the inning with a base hit to break up Brees’ no-hi bid. Sierra Athow followed Anders’ lead with a double down the left field line.
Singleton grounded out on a strange play after she blooped one over the pitcher’s head, allowing Anders to score Midland’s only run. Brees struck out the final two batters of the game to seal the 6-1 win for Baker to start off their tournament.
Brees’ near no-hitter earned her 34th win of the season, the most of any pitcher in the NAIA. She struck out 13 Warriors hitters in her seven innings, increasing her season total to 432, which leads all levels of collegiate softball in 2019.
Hinrichs drops to 22-7 on the season after allowing five earned runs. She struck out seven batters in the game to give her 282 for the year, which ranks second to Brees for the most in the NAIA.
“That was two really good pitchers going at it,” Heard said. “They both pitched very well today.”
Baker got the best of Midland in game one on Monday thanks to another stellar performance from Brees. The Warriors looked lost at the plate versus the talented senior, and managed just two hits, both of which came in the seventh inning.
“I just thought that their hitters made better adjustments than ours did,” Heard said. “That paid off for them in the fifth when they came up with a few big hits.”
The Warriors are still very much alive in the Springfield Bracket, but will have to make a run from the losers’ bracket if they want to keep their great season going. They are not here by accident, and have shown many times this year that they are not afraid of the challenges that come when their backs are against the wall.
Midland plays Tuesday, May 14, at 1:00 p.m. versus the No. 4 seed Indiana University-Southeast Grenadiers (32-24 overall). IU-Southeast dropped its opening game of the Springfield Bracket 2-1 to top-seeded Marian (Ind.) after a 14-inning battle on Monday afternoon.