Mizzou Softball Claims Fifth Straight Regional Title

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COLUMBIA -- The No. 9 Missouri softball team won their fifth straight Regional Championship, and fourth in a row at home, with a 2-1 victory over the Illinois State Redbirds on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers advance to the NCAA Super Regional round, where they will host the LSU Tigers, beginning next weekend.

After no scoring through the first three innings of play, the Tigers got on the scoreboard first in the top of the fourth when Ashtin Stephens hit an RBI single to left field, plating Corrin Genovese. Stephens tried to advance to second on the hit, but was thrown out. With a two-out double to left field, Genovese registered her first hit in the last six games.

After retiring the first twelve batters, the Redbirds broke up Chelsea Thomas' no-hit bid in the bottom of the fifth when Elizabeth Kay hit a leadoff single to centerfield. A hit by pitch to Laura Canopy put runners on first and second, and Caiti Kopp's sacrifice bunt advances the runners to second and third. An intentional walk to Kolby Hamilton loaded the bases, but Thomas was able to get out the inning unscathed by striking out Sara Bradley.

The Tigers added their second run of the day in the top of the sixth when Lindsey Muller hit her seventh home run of the season, drilling a one-out pitch to left field to put the Tigers up 2-0.

The Redbirds cut the Tigers lead to 2-1 in their half of the sixth when Kay hit a double to left center, scoring Jhavon Hamilton. Hamilton led off the inning with a single for ISU's second hit of the day.. That run ended Thomas' scoreless innings streak at 41.1 innings.

The Redbirds had one final comeback attempt in them in the bottom of the seventh when Kopp led off the inning with an infield hit. After two quick strikeouts by Thomas, the Redbirds were down to their final out, but a catcher's interference call negated a 6-4 putout that would've ended the game. After another loaded the bases, Thomas registered her 12th strikeout of the day and gave the Tigers the victory.

The visiting Tigers had a chance to pounce quickly on the Redbirds in the top of first, but failed to capitalize leaving the bases loaded. Jenna Marston hit a one-out single to left field that was followed by a line drive single up the middle by Ashley Fleming. With a walk to Nicole Hudson loading up the bases, Muller popped up to shortstop, ending the threat.

Thomas finished the game with one run allowed in seven innings of work. She gave up only four hits and struck out 12 while walking only 1. Marston and Kingsley led the offense with two hits each, while Muller and Stephens provided the RBI.

Mizzou and LSU will face off next weekend in the NCAA Super Regionals, with the winner advancing to the 2012 Women's College World Series. Times and dates are to be determined.