CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Rebekka Gross delivered a pair of two-run home runs to help Tennessee State to a sweep of Southeast Missouri on Sunday afternoon in Cape Girardeau. The freshman drove in all four runs of a 4-3 victory in the night cap. Fellow freshman Hannah St. Clair tossed a complete game to earn a win in the opener, 3-1.
The Tigers entered the weekend two and a half games out of the final spot for the Ohio Valley Conference Championships and climbed to within one game with the sweep over SEMO. TSU improved to 4-9 and 16-25 overall. The 16 wins is the first time a Jeff Dabney coached team has reached as many wins in a season and is the most wins in a year since the Tigers won 18 in 2009.
Gross finished the late game 2-for-2 with a walk and led the Tigers in an eight hit attack. Kiarra Freeman added two hits in four at bats, while Courtney Gearlds, Ashley Haynes, Lindsey Burgess and Shea Morris each notched one.
Haynes led off the top of the second with a single to right and moved to second on a Kate Morris sacrifice bunt. After a ground out by Burgess to advance Haynes to third, Gross stepped to the plate a launched a 2-1 pitch over the fence in left center. The first dinger in the catchers career gave TSU a 2-0 lead.
Southeast Missouri (7-22, 2-9) took the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning with a two-run bomb. But the lead was short-lived as TSU came to bat in the top of the sixth. Burgess opened the inning with a single to center. Gross fouled off a bunt attempt making the count 1-1. On the next pitch the Angels Camp, Calif., product sent a ball over the left field fence giving the Tigers a 4-3 advantage.
Shea Morris, who recorded her first extra-base hit over her career with a double in the second, earned the win as she retired the final seven batters. Morris struck out four batters and is now one fanning away from 500 in her career. The junior improved to 9-10 as she scattered seven hits and two walks. With the win, Morris became the winningest pitcher in TSU history.
In the opener, St. Clair and SEMO starter Hannah Durham stifled the opposing hitters. Freeman earned the first hit of the game for either team with a shot through the left side of the infield to lead off the fourth. Freeman was sacrificed into scoring position, but Durham would sit down the next two Tigers.
Southeast Missouri picked up their first hit of the game in the bottom of the inning, but St. Clair was able to strand the base runner as she fanned a batter to end the inning.
The Tigers broke through in the sixth with three runs off three walks, a hit and a Redhawks error. Back-to-back walks by Gearlds and Freeman, along with a fielding error off the bat of Burgess loaded the bases to open the inning. Jayna Hanawahine would push across the first run on a ground out to third. Three pitches later the Tigers took a 2-0 lead as Freeman charged home on a wild pitch. After a walk to Haynes, Kate Morris shot a ball into left field and registered her team leading 22nd RBI, as Burgess crossed home plate.
The Redhawks would scratch an unearned run off St. Clair in the sixth. The freshman pitcher would close out the game by sitting down the Southeast Missouri batters in order in the seventh. St. Clair finished just shy of her first collegiate shutout allowing just two hits and three walks. The Taylorsville, N.C., native improved to 3-7, while striking out five.
The Tigers will face Samford on Wednesday at Tiger Field for a double header. The Tigers and Bulldogs are scheduled for a 4:00pm first pitch.