Coach Pat Lipira began her most distinguished career at Missouri Southern State University in 1981. Lipira had always wanted the opportunity to coach and teach on the collegiate level. She got her wish after a ten minute interview with Missouri Southern’s women’s athletic director Sallie Beard.
In the beginning Lipira coached both the women’s softball and volleyball teams. She began the first of many winning season in 1983 with a record of 18 wins and 17 losses. The winning tradition continued and by 1986, her Lady Lions won a record 44 games. The team, led by All-Americans Renee Livell, Lana Basinger, and Kim House, finished the season in 4th place in the NAIA. Her 1990 team won 36 games and made a memorable appearance to the Final Four during the first year of competition in the NCAA Divison II. For most programs, these accomplishments would be the difficult to top.
However the most memorable season was just two years away, when the 1992 team made school history winning 50 games as well as first place finish in the NCAA Division II national softball championship world series.
The 1992 national championship team’s roster was filled with exceptional talent. Renee Weih led the team with home runs (4) and triples (9). Weih, a 1990 walk-on was the second leading hitter with a .379 batting average. Junior shortstop Katrina Marshall produced the most total runs with 50 RBI and 45 runs and led the club with the highest batting average of .425. Carrie Carter had 17 stolen bases. The physical education major from Paola, Kansas, was a clutch center fielder as well. Coach Lipira once remarked that, “she has robbed more hitters of base hits than any center fielder I’ve ever had.”
Two other key players were the battery team of senior catcher Diane Miller, and sophomore pitcher Andre Clark. Miller made second team All-American for the third straight year. She finished the championship season with a .365 batting average with 41 RBI. During her four-year career at Missouri Southern, Miller produced 201 hits, wit 1332 runs driven in, which at the time was eleven short of a Division II season record. Arriving from Pinckneyville, Illinois, the right handed thrower Clark followed up her impressive freshman year with a better second year. Her 31 wins with only two losses propelled the team to the superior pitching traits: her incredible intensity and amazing control. Clark in two years won 52 games to 8 losses. The fifty-plus wins included 28 shutouts. Her career era was a jaw dropping 0.63.
The Lady Lions had an extraordinary run as they went undefeated through the conference, regional and the Final Four tournaments. The team did not lose a game in the entire post season, going 4-0 in the MIAA Postseason Tournament and 3-0 in both the Midwest Regional at MSSU and the national tournament games 8-1 over Saginaw Valley State, 1-0 over Bloomsburg and 1-0 over Cal-State-Haywood.
In 1992, Missouri Southern Lady Lions softball team’s dream season was a remarkable achievement. The program had made tremendous strides form its meager beginning two decades earlier in 1975. A banner still hangs on Lea Kungle field’s outfield fence proudly recognizing the historic season of 1992. In 2012, the 1992 Lady Lions’ softball team was inducted into the MIAA’s Hall of Fame.