UNION, Mo. — Three Rivers had one more regular season series slated, one it could use to maximize its momentum heading into the Region XVI Tournament this week.
The Lady Raiders made the most of it, sweeping Division II East Central College (11-21) 10-0, and 11-1 on Monday.
With the pair of 10-run wins, Three Rivers (38-7) enters the region tournament having won eight of its last nine games.
The pitching showed up in both outings. If not for a solo home run in game two, the Lady Raiders would have driven home with a pair of shutouts under their belts. Nonetheless, they gave up eight hits combined in the two games, stifling East Central the entire day.
Abbey Gann picked up her 17th win of the season in game one. She gave up two hits in four innings, striking out five before Adrienne Stucker relieved her to finish the game. Stucker gave up one hit in her inning in the circle.
Saje Kurpiela pitched all six innings in game two. She picked up her 17th win with seven strikeouts. Kurpiela allowed five hits and an earned run for a 1.17 ERA. Three Rivers' pitching staff entered the series wit a 2.84 ERA on the year, and that number will drop even lower heading into the postseason.
"Our pitching, first off, was real solid today," Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said. "Abbey and Adrienne both threw game one and threw real well. Saje had a good start in game two. Made one mistake and they hit a solo shot, but pitching was really good all day."
Lana Reed and Gracie King kept up their duel for the most home runs on the team. King started the day with a first inning homer to put the Lady Raiders up 2-0 right off the bat. Reed drilled a grand slam in the top of the sixth inning in game two, part of the Lady Raiders' eight run outburst to put away the series.
King and Reed both hit double digit dingers with 10 on the year to close the regular season. Kristyn Carpenter scored a pair of runs in game one, bringing her total to 51 runs scored this year.
"It was nice," Null said. "We did the little things. We moved runners. We got the big hit when we needed it."
In game one, Three Rivers scored at least a run in every inning on the way to ending it in five, a welcome sight for a team that usually scores its runs in bunches. In game two, it was back to that routine. The Lady Raiders led 3-1 before they put up eight runs in the sixth inning to end the game early.
"That second game was a little more like old us," Null said. "We kind of sputtered around there, then had the big inning. But their pitcher did a pretty good job."
Prior to Monday, the Lady Raiders hadn't scored in every inning since April 2 against Mineral Area.
"Second game, the bats kind of started a little slow, but we got it going there toward the end. First game, man, we got it going. I think we scored about every inning, so that was probably the best all-around game we've played — I think — this year."
Three Rivers wanted to get a series in this week to prepare it for the tournament. The Lady Raiders weren't sure if they'd get to play Monday since it rained in Union. The field was in good enough condition to hold the games, though, and it was East Central's sophomore day, so the hosts wanted to make sure the series was finished.
Having clinched the No. 2 seed in the region tournament, Three Rivers will face No. 7 St. Charles in the first round. The Lady Raiders will play at noon on Friday in the double elimination tournament. With a win, Three Rivers will play the winner of the Jefferson College and Metropolitan Community College series at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic