MSSU softball smashes outside expectations, earns top-3 seed in MIAA tournament

The Lions finished the regular season 28-13-1, after being picked 11th in the MIAA preseason poll.
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JOPLIN, Mo. – Being picked 11th in the MIAA preseason poll had to motivate the Missouri Southern softball team, right?

“No,” says head coach Hallie Blackney with a laugh, “That would require us caring what other people think about us. We know who we are and we know what we’re capable of. The kids have always known we were voted 11th, but we also knew that was based off our team two years ago, and our roster was brand new. Nobody knew what Missouri Southern was going to be.”

Missouri Southern has earned a top-3 seed in the MIAA postseason tournament, finishing the regular season with a 28-13-1 overall record. The Lions are now guaranteed a home series to begin the league’s postseason tournament.

“It feels great. Home field advantage is huge,” Blackney says, “We love when our fans are here. Our field is the biggest in the conference. That’s a big advantage for us, because we know how to play on it. We’re really excited to host.”

Not only has MSSU earned a home series to begin the postseason – but they also head into the tournament playing their best softball of the season.

The Lions finished the regular season over the weekend with double-header sweeps over Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western – pushing their winning streak to 8 games.

“We had a challenging preseason schedule, and that was on purpose,” Blackney says, “We have great leaders on this team, and it’s a player-led squad. We’re excited to be rolling right now. There’s talent 1-17 on this roster. It was up to me not to screw it up. We have utility kids, we have speed, we have power. This is the best pitching in the circle that we’ve had.”

It’s a quick turnaround for the program under Blackney.

The Lions were 19-25 overall in her first year with the team in 2019. Last season, the Lions were 11-9 before COVID-19 ended the season.

Now, they’re one of the best teams in the conference – and Blackney has put together a strong resume to be the MIAA Coach of the Year.

“I respect the coaches in this conference a lot, so if that we’re to happen, that would be great,” Blackney says, “That wouldn’t be a reflection on me, that would be a reflection of the people in this program. I’m super proud of the leadership that we have and the trust we have. That would speak volumes to this program, not just me.”

Missouri Southern will likely be the #3 seed in the MIAA conference tournament. They move up to the #2 seed if Washburn is able to sweep a double-header from Central Missouri Monday afternoon.

Blackney says she doesn’t care if her team ends up as the #2 seed or the #3 seed – she knows her team has put in the work, and will be ready for whoever comes to Joplin this weekend.

“We’ve earned it. We’ve worked hard,” Blackney finishes, “What the media and the fans see is only what we do during games. But they don’t see what the kids have to do for COVID testing. They don’t see the classes that they’re in, getting the 3.5 team GPA that we have. They don’t see all the things they have to do. I’m really proud of them for being resilient people this entire year.”