Sam Gause photo via MUtigers.com
Sorry about missing the ISU preview last week...just too much going on these days at work and home. Consider this probably your last one of these for awhile, since I am guessing Baby Beef will arrive before the Okie State series next weekend. MU heads west for a Friday night, Sat twin-bill series against Oregon. Some MU fans will recall Oregon from their trip to Como two years ago in the Super Regional, which saw Mizzou sweep the Ducks out and themselves into their second straight WCWS. How many Ducks are left from that team? All in good time ... but let's see how Mizzou has been doing of late.
MU Since Last We Talked:
Going all the way back to April 20, Mizzou started the big series with OU in tough fashion, losing a 10-inning heart-breaker, 2-1. Chelsea Thomas was her fairly amazing self, but the offense could not get going against Keilani Ricketts. The Tigers returned on Saturday and got their win in another extra-inning battle, prevailing 4-2. Ashley Fleming saved the day for the Tigers, tying the game in the sixth (which she had done the previous day before MU ultimately lost) before Kelsi Roth drove in the game-winning run. With a potential series win on the line on national TV on Sunday, the Tigers came up short by a score of 2-1, this time in regulation. Thomas battled as she has all year, but the Tigers were held to 4 hits and could not come back from being down 2-0 after 2.
The Tigers rested during the week last week before heading to Ames for a set of games against Big XII softball bottom-feeder Iowa State. The Tigers made quick work of the Cyclones in the first two games, winning 9-0 in 5 and 8-0 in 6. They had more HR's (6) than ISU had hits (5). The Sunday game featured the Tigers getting out to a 6-0 lead after 6 innings, but Kristen Nottelmann struggle in hanging on to the win for Bailey Erwin who had pitched the first 4 innings of the game. The Tigers needed all 6 runs, as they hung on to win and sweep the series with a 6-5 tally.
Mizzou entered the week at #9 in the polls and #17 in the RPI as they faced a late-added double-header in the form of Murray State on Wed. Erwin started Game 1 and was solid again, allowing MU to build a 4-0 lead after 5. Coach E then moved Ashley Fleming to circle (he has tried to limit Erwin at times, and I am sure he did not want to throw Thomas while keeping Nottelmann for Game 2). Fleming struggled and actually was replaced by Erwin, who returned to stop the bleeding that had resulted in a 4-4 tie. Fortunately, as she has done so many times this year, Fleming saved the day (and herself a bit) by cracking her 13th HR in the bottom of the sixth to make it 5-4, which would be the final score.
In Game 2, The Racers scored three off of Nottlemann in the top of the fourth and Mizzou came to the plate in the bottom of the 7th down 3-0. The inning started well, with the Tigers getting 2 runs on a Rachel Hay single with no outs. Ashtin Stephens laid down a SAC bunt that put runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, and then Jenna Marston was intentionally passed to load them up. However, Kayla Kingsley went down swinging on a 2-2 pitch and Fleming could not save MU as she popped out to SS to end the game. This put Mizzou at 38-11 overall and 14-7 in conference. The scenario laid out by Bill C. here already has some issues as UT beat Baylor on Tuesday, moving the Horns to 14-6 while OU is 14-4. It is what it is.
MU Regular Season Offensive Leaders:
- Batting Average: Ashley Fleming - .384
- OBP: Jenna Marston and Ashley Fleming - .482
- Slugging: Ashley Fleming - .725
- Runs: Jenna Marston - 48
- HR's: Ashley Fleming - 13
- RBI's: Ashley Fleming - 42
- XBH: Ashley Fleming - 21
- Walks: Jenna Marston - 42
- SB's: Jenna Marston - 10
- Team Batting/OBP/Slugging: .279/.382/.446
MU Big XII Conference Offensive Leaders:
- Batting Average: Ashley Fleming - .367
- OBP: Ashley Fleming - .472
- Slugging: Ashley Fleming - .717
- Runs: Jenna Marston - 23
- HR's: Ashley Fleming - 6
- RBI's: Ashley Fleming - 22
- XBH: Ashley Fleming - 9
- Walks: Jenna Marston - 18
- SB's: Nicole Hudson - 4
- Team Batting/OBP/Slugging: .246/.334/.408
Alright...on to the Ducks
Oregon currently sits at #12 in the country and #7 in RPI (per the above links) with a record of 38-12 (11-8 in the Pac-12) after sneaking out a double-header this past week at home against Seattle. They stumbled a bit out of the game at the Kajikawa Classic, going only 3-2 and not taking on any ranked teams in the process, with losses coming against #66 (RPI) New Mexico and #36 BYU. They swept through the Cathedral Classic in California the next week with wins coming against #33 Okie State and #41 San Diego State. The ESPN Rise tournament saw then drop a game to #32 Baylor but win out otherwise, including against #26 North Carolina. They swept through the Bayer Cropscience Classic (seriously) with another win over San Diego State before taking on and losing (5-1) to #3 Alabama. Beyond that, they have pretty much been in conference, and have gone 8-6 against the combination of #1 Cal (home, 1-2), #2 ASU (home, 1-1), #10 Arizona (road, 2-1), #15 Washington (home, 1-1) and #22 Stanford (road, 2-1). They do still have three remaining against #13 UCLA and dropped their other two conference games to #23 Oregon State (the other three wins came against #69 Utah...which took me a second to figure out).
Oregon Offense (stats referenced do not include DH from this past Wed):
Oregon's offense is every bit as good as just about any Mizzou has faced this season, as they are batting .319 as a team. They have decent power throughout, though no one with more than 9 HR's. Junior Sam Pappas leads the team in batting (.394), hits (50) and SB's (14-17). Senior Kelsey Chambers is one of the big boppers, leading in runs (41), doubles (T-11), walks (T-22) and is 2nd in RBI's (43). Junior Kaylan Howard has 21 XBH (21/1/9) with 41 RBI's on the year, while sophomore Kailee Cuico also has 9 HR's leads in RBI's with 44. Sophomore Courtney Ceo and frosh Janie Takeda are the other speedsters, each swiping 10 SB's (team is 59-78). The team is fairly free-swinging, as they have worked 163 BB's with 208 K's.
The stat page I had access to did not include defensive stats.
The Ducks feature two pitchers, one frosh and one junior who Mizzou has seen before. With the DH on Sat, I am working under the suspicion the Tigers will see both Jessica Moore and Karissa Hovinga. Moore, a junior, is the ace of the staff with a 24-9 record and 2.25 ERA in 208 innings. She has given up 198 hits and 99 runs (67 earned...so that may give you an idea that the Duck defense is NOT very good, with 40 total unearned runs) with 74 BB's and 182 K's. Hovinga, a frosh, is 12-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 112.2 innings. She has surrendered 114 hits and 42 BB's with 59 runs (52 earned) with 65 K's.
Oregon Actives Against Mizzou in 2010 Super Regionals (all against Kristen Nottelmann)
- Jessica Moore - 9 IP/9 H/4 R/2 earned/ 0 BB/ 6 K's (0-2)
- Sam Skillingstad - 1.1 IP/3 H/3 R/3 earned/ 0 BB's/ 2 K's
- Allie Burger - 1/7, 1 R, 1 RBI
- Sam Pappas - 1/5 2 BB
- Kaylan Howard - 2/6
- Kelsey Chambers - 2/6
- Lindsey Chambers - no offensive stats/defensive replacement
- Christie Nieto (did not play in either game)
Clearly, the Ducks return quite a bit from their team that went as far as they did in 2010. They returned to the Super Regional in 2011 before losing to Florida 9-1 and 7-0. They have played a solid schedule thanks to their conference affiliation and they are certainly a squad that can put the bat on the ball. Will their pitching and their defense hold up? Probably not if the MU bats are firing like they HAVE...but it may certainly be enough if the MU bats are firing like they ARE currently. Ashley Fleming, for as great of a season as she is having, cannot be counted on to win games for us alone. Jenna Marston obviously has a good eye, but we do not seem to be putting together big innings unless the wind is blowing out in Ames (I assume it was). A series win (or sweep) could be a springboard, but this team has been decently up and down this year, so I think we are past looking for things to start a run. Nottlemann needs to show up if Coach E decides to use her (as I would presume he would in the 2nd half of the DH on Saturday) and we need to put together big innings. Are we in danger of slipping to a two-seed in a few weeks? If we do not perform well here and then next weekend at Okie State...yes, I think we are. We have our "history" and fan support to help us maybe earn it over someone else, but we could certainly help our own cause this weekend with a good performance against a very solid team.