The Murray State softball team scored seven unanswered runs to come from behind and beat Michigan State, 7-6 in nine innings, Tuesday in its first game of the 2017 National Invitational Softball Championship Normal Regional at Marian Kneer Stadium in Normal, Illinois.
The Spartans (31-23) got on the board first in the second with a home run by Lexi White. The long ball was compounded by a Murray State error in the previous at bat that allowed Ebonee Echols to reach base, making to 2-0 Michigan State.
In the third, Kelcey Carrasco made it 3-0 with a two-out home run, Michigan State’s second of the game. After the home run, the Spartans loaded the bases on back-to-back singles from Kaitlyn Eveland and Echols and a walk by White. Still with two outs, Sarah Gutknecht made it 5-0 with a single through the right side that scored Eveland and Echols. Two batters later, Michigan State extended its lead to 6-0 after Gutknecht scored on a wild pitch.
Murray State (36-18) finally found its way on to the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when Brenna Fick belted her third home run of the season. In the fourth, the Racers scratched out another run when Madison Culver scored pinch runner Maddy Feeney from third with a single to center field.
In the fifth, Jessica Twaddle made it 6-4 when she homered for the 14th time this season on a play that also scored Kaylee Ranburger, who reached in the previous at bat on a double. Neither team scored in the sixth and the Racers were able to hold the Spartans in the top of the seventh, leaving the door open for the comeback win.
Finck led off the seventh with a double and was brought home two batters later on a single by Twaddle, pulling the Racers within one at 6-5. With two outs and Twaddle on second, Taylor Odom reached on an error by Michigan State that also allowed Twaddle to score and tie the game at six.
Cayla Levins would draw a walk after the error to give Murray State two runners, but the Racers were unable to capitalize, sending the game to extras. Each team had a base runner in the eighth, but neither was able to score the runner, sending the game to the decisive ninth inning.
In the top of the ninth, Michigan State put its first two batters on base on a single by Carrasco and a Murray State error that allowed Eveland to reach. However, despite the first two runners reaching, the Racer defense clamped down and retired the next three batters to get to the bottom half of the inning.
Twaddle led off the bottom of the inning by reaching on an error and was then moved to second on sacrifice bunt from Jocelynn Rodgers. In the next at bat, Taylor Odom was out on a long fly ball to right field that allowed Twaddle to tag up and advance to third. In the next at bat, a wild pitch from the Michigan State pitcher went to the back stop and allowed Twaddle to score from third to complete the comeback win.
Finck led Murray State by going a career-best 4-for-5 on the day with two runs and a RBI, while Twaddle was 2-for-5 with three runs and three RBIs. Haven Campbell picked up the relief win to move to 12-9 on the season by allowing no runs on just four hits with two strikeouts and a walk over 6.1 innings.
Murray State will continue play in the Normal regional Wednesday when it takes on host Illinois State in a winner’s bracket matchup at 4 p.m.