[Bumped back to top of the page. First game is tonight at 7:00 p.m. CT.]
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...
MU Since Last We Talked:
I suppose it is a testament to the overall strength of the program that Mizzou can drop two out of three at home to Texas Tech and only drop one spot in the rankings (down to #10 per this poll). We also see Texas Tech now checking into the rankings at #25. However, that makes the weekend's result no less disappointing as the Tigers stumbled out of the gates on Friday night and managed only a split of the Saturday double-header (to beat the weather). The series started with Chelsea Thomas in the circle. She would give up two runs on six hits with four walks and 11 K's, but it was Tech's Brittany Talley (and Tech's defense) who was the story. Talley gave up one hit and walked no one, and Tech's defense committed only one error while Talley only gave them one strikeout on the evening. That is a lot of defensive chances, and Tech's play was tremendous, giving them the 2-0 win. On Saturday, the Tiger offense showed up early and staked Kristen Nottelmann to an early 2-0 lead, but she could not hold it and was chased in the top of the 2nd. Bailey Erwin was not much better, and Tech touched the two for 5 runs in the 2nd and 3rd. Mizzou would make it close with 2 more in the bottom of the 5th, but that is as close as they would get, falling 5-4. The teams would turn right around and play the final game of the series in an effort to beat the weather, and Thomas returned to the circle, spinning 8 innings of 1 run, 2 hit ball, striking out another 11. However, the Tigers found themselves down 1-0 in the bottom of the 6th before Nicole Hudson hit another big home run to pull them even at 1. To the 8th inning, and the Mackensie Sykes would take over the role of hero, clubbing a 3-run, walkoff shot to give Mizzou a 4-1 win.
The team would finish off their five-game homestand yesterday with a single game against the Western Illinois Leathernecks. Nottelmann returned to the circle and was strong, pitching four easy innings and surrendering only one hit. The Tigers took advantage of seven walks issued by WIU, and Hudson would hit another HR en route to a 8-0 run-rule win in 6 innings. This brings the Tigers now to 33-8 on the season and 10-5 in conference. They have slipped to #16 in the RPI (as shown here), though the schedule does show a number of games against ranked opponents left on the year. Turning towards the Big XII, with OU sitting atop the standings at 11-3, Mizzou is not quite out of it, but they must take 2 out of 3 to really have a chance. However, before we get to the #5 Sooners, let's update the MU team leaders.
MU Regular Season Offensive Leaders (through 4/14, so does not include WIU game):
- Batting Average: Ashley Fleming - .383
- OBP: Jenna Marston - .507
- Slugging: Ashley Fleming - .687
- Runs: Jenna Marston - 40
- HR's: Ashley Fleming - 9
- RBI's: Ashley Fleming - 35
- XBH: Ashley Fleming - 17
- Walks: Jenna Marston - 34
- SB's: Jenna Marston - 8
- Team Batting/OBP/Slugging: .285/.387/.455
MU Big XII Conference Offensive Leaders:
- Batting Average: Ashley Fleming - .341
- OBP: Jenna Marston - .463
- Slugging: Ashley Fleming - .614
- Runs: Jenna Marston - 17
- HR's: Ashley Fleming and Nicole Hudson - 3
- RBI's: Ashley Fleming - 16
- XBH: Corrin Genovese and Ashley Fleming - 6
- Walks: Jenna Marston - 14
- SB's: Corrin Genovese, Ashtin Stephens and Nicole Hudson - 3
- Team Batting/OBP/Slugging: .240/.333/.394
It is worth pointing out that after my mentioning of Nicole Hudson she did pull her conference average above .200 to .211 and hit 2 HR's on the weekend. Princess Krebs however has played in 14 of the 15 conference games and is now batting .037. She is 1 for 27. She has struck out twice, so that is pretty tough luck right there for someone who has decent speed as well. Alright, on to the Sooners.
OU currently sits at 36-6 overall after their 9-4 win over North Texas this week, and they are also 11-3 in conference. OU is a national power, and looked to schedule that way in the pre-season component of their schedule, though the weather did not always cooperate. They had games against #2 (RPI) Alabama and #29 Auburn rained out early on at the ACC/SEC/B-XII Challenge, though they did score an impressive 10-0 (5) win over #30 Va Tech, while also taking a 1-0 loss to #25 Ga Tech. Their other two out of conference losses came the following weekend, dropping a 5-0 match to #22 Stanford and then a 3-2 game to #17 Georgia. They scored two wins over #20 LSU the following weekend, and also have taken wins against #21 Depaul (by an 18-1 score) and #24 Michigan 2-0. Once they hit the conference season, they have dropped games against #37 Baylor (1-0), #23 Texas Tech (5-4) and #13 aTm (4-0). I suppose it is not a bad thing that OU and UT have not played, as their three game series will be the first weekend in May, though they will finish with three at Ames.
OU Offense: (not including UNT game from Wed)
You will be amazed when I tell you that OU's offense may not be as strong as their pitching once you read some of the stats. OU is hitting .329 on the season (.297 in conference play) and is outscoring their opponents 259-41 on the year. They are led by junior catcher Jessica Shults who bats .413 andleads the team in hits with 52 while stroking 12 HR's and driving in 39, accounting for a slugging percentage of .762. All-Everything junior Keilani Ricketts leads the team in OBP at .515 (best in conference), has a slugging of .790 and has 11 HR's of her own along with a team-leading 28 BB's taken. The biggest bopper is freshman Lauren Chamberlain who has burst on the scene this year to bat .379 with 19 HR's (team and conference lead) and a slugging of .903 (team and conference lead) with 53 RBI's and 42 runs scored (both also team lead). Sophomore Destinee Martinez is no slouch at the plate either, coming in at .356 and has a team-leading 12 stolen bases. OU has two other starters above .300 with sophomore Brittany Williams just below at .293. They have 44 stolen bases in 55 chances, have walked 128 times compared to 153 K's, so they are a bit of a free-swinging team. And when you are as efficient as they are when making contact, why not?
OU is actually in the middle of the conference pack in defense, with a .971 fielding percentage, good enough for 5th. Part of that may be that OU defenders have received the fewest chances this year (which we will get to) while committing 30 errors. Those errors have led to just SEVEN unearned runs.
Well, let's rip the band aid off this sucker. OU sports a team ERA of 0.92 on the year. In 260 total innings, they have surrendered 140 hits and 41 runs (34 earned) with just 43 walks. That is a good bit less than one baserunner per inning. They have also returned 394 batters back to the dugout with their heads hung in shame. That is almost one and a half strikeouts per inning. They are led by Ricketts, who MU has faced numerous times in her career. She is sitting at 20-5 with a 0.96 ERA. She has 161 innings pitched and 86 hits/28 BB's/253 K's. Opponents are batting only .153 against her (.154 against the team). She is supported by junior Michelle Gascoigne who is 14-1 on the season with a 0.91 ERA in 84.2 innings. She has given up only 45 hits of her own with only 12 BB's and 124 K's. MU is likely to face both this weekend ... quite the pair.
By the way, if you have been paying very close attention, you may have noticed I have not used the qualifier of "senior" yet when describing any of the OU players. That is because none of their normal starters are seniors, either in the field or the circle.
I referenced it before, but let's take a look at what MU has done against Ricketts in the past two years:
- 2011 saw them beat her all three times. Ricketts lost both games in that amazing two-game series in Como during the year where she pitched 19.1 innings, giving up four runs and K'ing 29. In the WCWS, MU ended OU's season with a 4-1 win, touching Ricketts for four more runs in six innings of work
- 2010 had the Tigers playing OU three times as well (as the B12 tourney was still being played. MU travelled down to Norman and split, winning their first game 11-5 and chasing Ricketts after 5.1 innings after she gave up seven runs (five earned). Strangely, those would be the last runs they would score that year against OU, as they would lose matching 9-0 (6) games. Ricketts gave up one hit and K'ed 8 in the first and she would give up 3 hits (and 6 BB's) with 11K's in the B-12 Tourney Championship.
All told Mizzou sports a pretty astounding 4-2 record against one of the country's best, so that is a positive. How will all our new bats adjust to her intimidating size and power? That remains the important question. Taking 2 out of 3 would put Mizzou one back in the loss column with OU and UT still needing to play one another. As long as someone does not sweep that series and MU can hold serve against the rest of their opponents (like the records and rankings say they should), MU will be right there. But how tall an order is it to take two of three this weekend? About as tall as Ricketts it would seem...