The Windy City was lovely this past holiday weekend, but was made all the lovelier by my getting to sit Sunday evening and watch the Mizzou Softball Tigers take apart the #2 seeded and ranked UCLA Bruins in a must-win scenario to go the BIG show. The diamond sports dominated the weekend for the Tigers, as there are only three sports left in play at this point, just one week after graduation. As the calendar gets ready to tun to June, let's look back at one of the biggest weekends in one of the program's history, as well as look back and ahead at whatever is left on the Tiger calendar.
They went into the weekend at 48-9, having set the program record for wins as they clinced their second straight NCAA Regional. Last season, the upstart Tigers moved on to the Super Regional before getting their season ended in mighty quick fashion by the #3 ranked 'Bama Crimson Tide. Mizzou gave up the six runs in a Game 1 6-1 loss, then gave up the first seven runs in a Game 2 7-1 loss. Long story short, they never really had a shot last season.
First off, let's go ahead and link all the great Game Threads. A HUGE thanks to everyone who participated, as these were keeping me perfectly up to date while walking around downtown Chicago all weekend.
Saturday would provide a different story. The #11 (but un-seeded...yes...I am still on that) Tigers would get out early on the home and favored #2 UCLA Bruins, scoring a run a piece in both the 2nd and 3rd innings. The seniors came through big in the second innings, with Micaela Minner (her pinch runner) scoring on an Andee Allen double. In the third, a Rhea Taylor triple meant a 2-0 lead on a Gina Schneider SAC fly. Freshman Chelsea Thomas was dealing, keeping UCLA at bay, and off the scoreboard until a lead-off HR by the Bruins to start the 7th to halve the lead. But Thomas would show amazing perseverance, setting the last three hitters down to cap the 2-1 upset win in Game 1.
Sunday would give the Tigers two chances to win one more game. The first chance had Thomas back in the circle, but not quite as sharp against the determined Bruins. UCLA scored all five of their runs before the Tigers would dent the scoreboard with a crooked number, but perhaps their doing so in the bottom of the 7th inning was bigger than just getting a 5-0 score to a 5-2 final. They were able to chase Bruin ace Megan Langenfeld in the last inning, made all the sweeter by the first career homerun by senior catcher Katie Milles, who gave the Tigers some momentum as they had to turn right around and get ready for the deciding game 3.
"The pitching depth Mizzou has will certainly play to their benefit in this format of multiple games, and if the bats can wake up some, UCLA did give up more than two runs in each game they played in their own regional."
- Some Guy from Some Website who Often Throws Things at a Wall Until Something Sticks
By the time Game 3 was getting ready to start, the UCLA ace had thrown 217 pitches in the past 22 hours. She went back to 1B, relenting to Donna Kerr who while having closed out the last game, did give up the HR before it was said and done. She was matched up against senior Stacy Delaney, who got the game started right with two straight strikeouts in a scoreless top of the first. Mizzou then set about putting this one away right away, and pretty much did that with a Schneider HBP, Kathryn Poet single, Minner single and a 2-run Lindsey Ubrun double. The Tigers would tack on a third run with a bases loaded walk to Abby Vock before being retired. Delaney kept the Bruins at bay with her off-speed stuff, giving up only one run on a solo shot in the top of the third. However, the score was already 5-1, and was stretched when the senior Ubrun struck another enormous blow with a three-run HR to make it 8-1. With Delaney holding the stumbling Bruins down, the bottom of the 5th gave the Tigers a chance to end in run-ruled fashion. And they did...just that.
Red-shirt junior Gina Schneider pounded a 3-2 pitch off the retaining next deep in left field for the 9th Tiger run to end it as 9-1 (5) and set up quite the celebration at home plate. The Tigers are on their way to Oklahoma City for the first time in 15 years, and we will certainly have much more on this in the days (and probably hours) to come. In the meantime, 50-10. FIFTY and ten. The Tigers WILL be one of the top eight teams to finish the season and are quite simply playing for it all on a field they just dominated the Big XII's best on three weeks ago. You cannot ask for more than that at this point in the season.
Once again, large props to the RMN community on their work in the live threads. Want to relive the excitement of it all? Click away...
- Mizzou beats aTm in Game 1
- Mizzou is AWESOME on their day off
- Mizzou is taken down late by Texas Tech
- Mizzou comes back to beat #2 seed OU
- Mizzou and Texas in the Championship Game (as shared with Softball)
Unlike the softball action, I did not get to see any of the weekend for the baseball Tigers. I admit to being concerned by Buehler's performance on Day 1, though I applaud TJ for using the quick hook and going to Tepesch to nail down the win. Berger deserved a hell of a lot more on Friday, but had to gain some much-needed confidence with his performance. The team showed LARGE BALLS in coming back and beating OU behind a pretty solid outing from Nick Tepesch. aTm helped us out and put us into the finals against #1 UT. Hicks showed OK to start, but Berger clearly did not have it and that inning was just a nightmare. Interesting to see TJ not go to Gibson at all in this game, and certainly may speak to how TJ ulimately thinks about the big picture. At any rate, the Tigers showed good heart and took advantage of some UT errors to get the score back to respectability, but the end result is a 12-7 loss in the finals. Congrats to Mizzou as a whole on becoming the first program to land a team in the football, basketball and baseball championship games (with softball and soccer getting and winning theirs to boot)
As expected, the Tigers rated highly enough for a #2 seed in the Oxford Regional where #15 seeded Ole Miss plays host. #3 seed Western Kentucky and #4 Monmouth. Mizzou has not faced any of these teams this season, but are certainly no strangers with the Rebels, who they faced last season down in Coral Gables. Aaron Crow dominated them in the first game, but the Rebels came back to end the Tigers' season before all was said and done. We will have much more later in the week on what lay ahead for Mizzou later this week down in what I like to call "Tailgating Heaven"
Coming Up This Week:
It will all start on Thursday as the Softball team takes to the field in OKC against #10 seeded Arizona State. Their schedule for the rest of the weekend will be determined by the result there. Baseball will get going on Friday against #3 seed Western Kentucky and go from there. Outdoor track will head down Louisville, KY and the NCAA Regional Championships in the hopes of adding as many athletes to the NCAA Championships (two weeks later)
- Not too sure the NBA 3rd round is turning out like too many folks thought it would
- As for the NHL, for as good as the 2nd round was, it looks like the 3rd round is going to end MIGHTY quickly
- That was quite the five-game stretch for Cardinal starting pitchers this week. We were on hand on Tuesday to see an honest to God complete game in two hours and four minutes...just like the old days.