Dak Dillon photo via MUtigers.com.
With the Easter Weekend series last week, it feels like longer than it really has been since last we checked in of the team, doesn't it? Anyway, MU has ascended to ninth in the major polls, and they were sitting at 14th in the RPI as of Monday afternoon (linked here). So what has the team done this past week? How are they looking so far on the season? What is on the horizon? All good questions ... let's get to some answers.
MU Since Last We Talked:
As reviewed on the site already over the weekend and on Monday, the Tigers travelled down to Austin and did what they needed to do to stay in the race for the Big XII title (since there is no tournament title) by taking two of three from the then-#3 Longhorns. Mizzou jumped out to 3-0 lead on Thursday night after the top of the 5th, and with Chelsea Thomas in the circle, MU fans had to feel good. But that UT offense took hold and pounded out nine runs (though only five earned thanks to three Mizzou errors) to take control of the game before MU score two late runs to tighten up the score at a 9-5 final. Friday night saw Thomas back in the circle, and the Tigers raced out to a similar 4-1 lead after the top of the 5th. UT scored three runs combined in the 5th and 6th to leave the score knotted at 4-4 heading to the 7th. However, the Tigers pounced for 7 runs in the inning to stake Thomas to a huge, late lead they would not relinquish, winning 11-4. The rubber match on Sunday had Thomas back in the circle for the third straight day, and she was an absolute warrior. Staked to an early 2-0 lead after the top of the 3rd, Thomas gave up only five hits and two BB's on the day, striking out nine on her way to a complete-game shutout and series winner for Mizzou, 2-0. On offense, senior Ashley Fleming was the straw that stirred the Tigers' drink, going 6-for-10 on the weekend with eight RBI's, enough to merit her winning NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK honors.
The Tigers returned home to start a short, five-game homestand by taking on the streaking UNI Panthers, winners of 15 straight. Senior Kristen Nottelmann provided Thomas some well-deserved rest by taking the circle, and she was sharp. Despite a second batter solo-shot, Nottelmann went on to give up only one additonal hit, while striking out seven and only walking one over 5 innings, which was a good sign considering her recent issues with control. Frosh Bailey Erwin picked up her second save of the year with two innings of two-hit ball (with two K's to boot). On offense, the Tigers sputtered a bit, but were able to push across single runs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Jenna Marston had an interesting game, going 0-0 at the plate with a run scored and FOUR walks. With the win, Mizzou extended their home-field winning streak to 22 games (17 this season) and moved to 31-6 overall. They are 9-3 in conference, sitting one game back in the loss column to OU and one game up in the win column to UT.
Before we get to the Lady Tech'sters, let's take a look at the statistical leaders for Mizzou through the regular season, and now that we are 12 games into conference play, also within the Big XII. I will start updating this from week to week moving forward, and will only include the offensive stats since Chelsea Thomas pretty much leads in any pitching statistic I could come up with.
MU Regular Season Offensive Leaders (through 4/7, so does not include UNI game):
- Batting Average: Ashley Fleming - .392
- OBP: Jenna Marston - .500
- Slugging: Ashley Fleming - .686
- Runs: Jenna Marston - 30
- HR's: Ashley Fleming - 8
- RBI's: Ashley Fleming - 32
- XBH: Ashley Fleming - 14
- Walks: Jenna Marston - 28 (32 now through UNI game)
- SB's: Jenna Marston and Corrin Genovese - 7
- Team Batting/OBP/Slugging: .298/.400/.470
MU Big XII Conference Offensive Leaders:
- Batting Average: Ashtin Stephens - .355
- OBP: Jenna Marston - .477
- Slugging: Corrin Genovese - .636
- Runs: Jenna Marston - 15
- HR's: Ashley Fleming, Corrin Genovese, Kelsi Jones and Nicole Hudson - 2
- RBI's: Ashley Fleming - 13
- XBH: Corrin Genovese - 6
- Walks: Jenna Marston - 12
- SB's: Corrin Genovese - 3
- Team Batting/OBP/Slugging: .258/.358/.408
It is worth pointing out the struggles of Nicole Hudson and Princess Krebs in conference play, as neither is hitting over .200 (with Krebs below .100) Both players will need to pick that up for Mizzou to maintain their preferred win and performance pace. With that said, let's move on to Texas Tech
TTech currently sits at 32-9 overall, 5-4 in conference, fresh off their win on Wednesday night against now #5 UT. On the season, Tech stumbled a bit out of the gate, albeit against some top competition in the Arizona State Classic, managing only a 5-4 win over #55 (RPI) San Diego State around four other losses (the worst by far to #160 Cal Poly). They stayed west at the Desert Classic in Vegas the next weekend, sweeping through their six games and getting solid wins against #22 (RPI) Depaul and #70 Ohio State in the process. The Texas Shootout was good to them as well, as they picked up four wins in five games, dropping one to #47 Texas State (while also winning one from them). They also have two wins against #41 New Mexico, while their conference slate has seen them sweep #111 Iowa State and take single games from Texas and #8 OU. Tech has only played what I would consider five true road games, going 1-4 against UT and OU. Tech is not receiving votes currently, but they do check in at a solid #28 in the RPI.
Unfortunately, the stats available on the TTech site have defaulted to conference-only, so I am not going to be able to get quite as in depth as normal, as I will need to pull from the (somewhat limited) conference site. That being said, it does not take a long look to see that Tech is all about the offense. They have seven run-rule wins on the year (not including the 10-0 win in EIGHT innings ... yes ... 10 runs in the extra frame) and currently sit with a .304 team batting average. They have pounded 53 HR's on the season and are scoring runs at a solid 5.66 per game clip. They have similar speed to Mizzou (51 SB's in 62 attempts). Best I can tell, they are led by junior Adriana Perez who checks in with a .397/.434/.754 average with a conference-leading 50 hits (but only 8 BB's) and second-in-conference 13 HR's and 44 RBI's. They have another masher in the form of junior Mikey Kenney who is just behind Perez with 10 HR's and who leads the team in runs scored with 36, and who also has speed with 11 SB's. Another bat to be on the lookout for will be senior Logan Hall, who leads the conference currently in doubles with 12. Sandy James, a junior is a final bat to watch for, as she is 7th in the conference in total bases and is the leading walk receiver for them at 21.
Tech is the best team in the conference in fielding percentage at .976, though it is an interesting stat. Everyone in conference has between 26 (Missouri and Texas) and 33 (Iowa State) errors. What ends up ranking people is the amount of chances, which correlates directly to the type of pitching. TTech appears to have pitchers who pitch to contact, so their 30 errors, though 4 more than Mizzou, are mitigted by the over 100 additional put outs and 130 assists they have. Tech does have strong middle infield defense though wtih a conference-leading 12 DP's.
Tech appears to have one horse they rely upon in freshman Cara Custer. For the season, she has thrown 147 innings (third most in the league and 32 ahead of Thomas), sitting at 19-6 on the year. She has K'ed 116, for a K/game average of 5.52, so by no means dominating compared to many others out there. She has 30 appearances on the season and leads the conference in saves with 3. She can get hot, pitching 5 shutouts on the year, and has also gone the distance in 13 of her 24 starts. Opponent batting average is better than .196 against her and I do not have a read on ERA. In conference, she is 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA, throwing 44.2 innings. Sophomore Brittany Talley accounts for almost all of the remaining conference innings, and is 1-0 with a 2.56 ERA. Opponents are hitting .274 against Custer and .327 against Talley for a .291 clip in conference overall.
Tech is a solid team, and certainly one capable of getting hot and winning a game (or even more). That said, Mizzou really does need to sweep them (and anyone else not specifically named OU) to keep pace. I do not anticipate Thomas getting the ball all three games this series as she did last weekend, but that could change if Friday night does not start well for the Tigers. Mizzou has won 13 (I believe) straight in the regular season over TTech, dating back to a 1-0 loss on 5/1/2004. The weather may get tricky for the weekend, and that could be tough since I dont see where these teams could make up a game or games which are lost to weather. I believe Coach E. is starting to settle into a lineup, but parts of that lineup are going to need to produce. I think Mizzou is certainly capable of winning each game they play this weekend, but can the Tech bats get hot and throw a wrench in there? We all know it can happen...