Monday Musings - The Big XII Champions Edition

I will say it never really does get old saying Big XII Champions...in any sport.  This one feels real good and a bit of vindication, as everyone (team included) recognized the opportunity lost a couple of weeks ago at the hands of OU and that which was regained against them this weekend.  Baseball also took another decent step forwards towards extending their season in a couple of weeks.  Between that and women's golf....well...that's about it.  So let's get to it I suppose.

Softball:

First off, I suppose we should get the links out of the way.  Big thanks to Andy 01, leg and rpt for spelling me when needed on the "live" blogging of the action:

Before we start to look ahead to the fun stuff, let me take a second to look back a bit as to this season came to be.

The season started out promising enough, with Chelsea Thomas really surprising right out of the gate.  Mizzou picked up tourney sweeps in Georgia (against a Va Tech team 10-0 who had been to the NCAA's a year before), in Florida (against an Arkansas team 8-0 who made the NCAA's) and had run their win streak to start the season to 12.  Shana White was helping for an injured Rhea Taylor and Thomas was huge in taking the burden off of Delaney.

They would then head west and find their first losses of the season. First to San Diego State in extras and then a TOUGH loss to current #2 seed UCLA the next day.  They returned home and were surprised in gaining a split against SIU-E, putting their record at a still solid, but a little less shiny 15-3.  They would finish the rest of the non-con season in style, crushing all the other Missouri teams down in Springfield before heading south to South Carolina, where they really opened some eyes.  They would beat Coastal Carolina and Michigan State before sweeping current #17 North Carolina in a romp.  Conference season was just around the corner and the team appeared to be back normal at 25-3 with 10 straight wins.

Conference ball started with a pair of tough games against a Texas team (NCAA) and took only a split.  A six game road trip saw sweeps at Houston and a big sweep at Baylor (NCAA) before heading to Lawrence to take on kU.  Mizzou would dominate the first, but falter in the second, taking their second conference loss, and a bad one at that.  With most non-con games about done, and Chelsea Thomas now on the mend, the Tigers went on a nine game winning streak which saw them run-rule their opponents in five games and score more than five runs in each game.  The victims included a ranked (at the time) Texas A&M team (NCAA) and Okie State (NCAA) as well.  After a sweep against TTech and a win in the first game of a twin-bill against ISU, the Tigers had passed everyone in the conference and were in the driver's seat at 41-5 and 11-2.  They had developed Kristin Nottelmann (who if I ever met in person I would apologize for screwing up the spelling of her name on a week to week basis) into another feared starter and the offense was amazing being led by Schweisberger and Ubrun.

Then...the bottom fell out a bit.  A surprising loss against ISU in the 2nd game left Mizzou stinging but still in good shape. OU then came to town and swept the Tigers at home, all but taking the Big XII regular season title out of their hands.  Another loss to start the last pair of regular season games against NU left Mizzou clutching to the #2 spot.  But Chelsea Thomas showed she was well on her way back from injury and took care of the Huskers to finish out the season at 42-9 and 12-6 in conference.  They would be the #2 seed in OKC and the benefactor of an advantageous draw which saw all the conference teams who had beaten them (UT, ISU, kU, OU and NU) all on the other side of the bracket, while they had gone 8-0 against TTech, Okie State, Baylor and aTm.  And Mizzou clearly was ready.

Let's be honest...this tournament was a VERY impressive sweep.  Mizzou showed their pitching depth, and also showed how their hitting was coming back around and could beat you in a lot of different ways.  The throttling of OSU allowed Thomas to rest up, and that was big.  And speaking of Thomas, in her last three games (finale against NU, OSU and the Championship Game), all she has done is throw 18 shutout innings and given up eight hits.  Anyway, Delaney was crafty and HUGE for the Tigers in keeping them right with Canion and Baylor Saturday afternoon before the Tigers would scratch out what they eventually needed.  Even Jana Hainey and Kristen Nottelman (especially the latter) got some pitches in and the quality took no step down as they closed out the first two games.

Now, on to the fun stuff, which was tempered by the ridiculous ranking and draw the Tigers received last night.  Not being one of the top 16 teams did not make any sense being that Mizzou was ranked inside the national top 16 BEFORE crushing the field.  This became even stranger when we saw that Mizzou had a better RPI than Depaul (16 vs. 18)  Yes, they get to host, but Depaul started the week ranked behind the Tigers, so even if you believe Mizzou was not quite as good as their national ranking, I still do not see why they were behind Depaul.  That, and getting seeded opposite #2 UCLA was also a tough blow.  Unless the Bruins are upset, the Tigers will absolutely play their last home games this coming weekend.  But, Mizzou played UCLA tough and had the 2nd best road record of any team in the country at 14-2. 

Yes...I believe we all know what I am talking about here:

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At any rate, Depaul, Illinois and Bradley are coming to Como this weekend.  It is a round-robin/double elimination format which plays right into the pitching depth the Tigers have.  They will get Illinois to start, since again...we are the #2 seed in the bracket even though we are ranked higher.  We'll have more on this as the week progresses including a look at each squad as time/space allows.

Baseball:

Coming into the week, I had gone on the record (and by record I mean this piece) and said I wanted three out of four to keep the momentum going.  Well, I did not quite get that, but I think what I got was close enough and should be enough in the long run (especially for as horribly jumbled the Big XII is).  Johnny Wholestaff was not too sharp on Tuesday against MStU, but Kyle Gibson was more than good enough on Friday to get the Tigers going on the right track.  Mr. Wholestaff was again not great on Saturday, making Sunday not a must-win, but pretty damn close.  "Good" (enough) Nick Tepesch showed on yesterday and had Mizzou in position to win, but reigning Big XII pitcher of the week Brad Buehler managed to give it all back in an amazing game which saw Mizzou blow a 5-run lead in the 9th.  But, back-up catcher Ryan Ampleman (who is spelling an injured Trevor Coleman) hit a walk-off HR to give Mizzou a ridiculous 13-12 win. 

They now sit at 30-23 and 16-11 (final record) in conference, and will finish up this weekend against Cal State Bakersfield.  Two out of three is a must for them at this point, simply from the standpoint of you hate to lose a series to CS-B.  It will also be interesting to see what sort of jockeying (if any) Coach TJ does with the pitching as the Big XII Tourney (which is VERY pitching intensive) will start up on the following Wednesday.  Either way, I think baseball did enough to keep their playoff hopes alive, and I am now aiming for the Mizzou being 10 games or more over .500 as my final, regular season goal.

Women's Golf:

In reality, I dont have much else to say beyond what was said here: Potter gets "live-blogged"

Up Next:

Softball will be in action starting with a game against Illinois at 5:00 p.m on Friday.  Baseball will be at home against CS-B and currently those games are scheduled for the standard 6:30/2/1 starting times, which appear to be somewhat safe times since softball (if they win Friday) would play at noon Saturday and (if they win that) 1pm on Sunday.  Senior Peter Malnati will also see action in the NCAA Regional Championships this week, while Outdoor Track will head to Lubbock, TX for the Big XII Championships.

Random Thoughts:

  • It is starting to come together for the Mets just a bit
  • I really do not believe Lebron James and the Cavs will lose a playoff game
  • I am kicking around a weekend of diamond sports in Como this coming weekend....
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