For as much as we would love for this latest installation to be weather-free, we don’t seem to have much of a choice. This past week, the cold cost the Tigers a double-header in St. Charles, and then the precipitation (both actual and pending) cost the Tigers one of their scheduled three against the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. This coming week, the remaining precipitation has cost the Tigers a double-header for later today against Creighton before a short, weekend series against the Gamecocks of South Carolina (one on Friday and a double-header on Saturday ahead of the holiday weekend). So before we inevitably talk about the weather in Mid-Missouri in late March, let’s talk about the Tigers and their short, impressive week.
Q #1 - In a week where Mizzou was originally scheduled for five game at seven innings each (35 innings), Chelsea Thomas pitched seven total to get two wins. Good thing or bad thing?
CPC - Good thing, I think. Easy on her arm and you can add two more dominant outings to the legend of Chelsea Thomas. She was just above her season average on strikeouts per inning, only walked one batter and allowed only 2 hits. What else can you ask for from her?
Had the Tigers played all 5 games this week, we’d likely be talking about her pitching at least 2 complete games (run-ruled or not) and that would have added up to another 11 innings on what is becoming the most watched arm in the Athletic Department (sorry, James Franklin, the QB depth chart runneth over and your sport is out of season anyhow.) Looking ahead (which will be more in depth further down), the Tigers get a rare SEC Saturday doubleheader with it being Easter weekend. I think Chelsea definitely goes the distance Friday night and probably gets the start in the 2nd game on Saturday. I’d expect Nicole Hudson to go the distance in game 1. That pretty much leaves Muller to relieve Thomas in rubber match if the bats are going.
The Beef - I was happy to see Muller used in one of the relief outings, just to help keep wear down on both Thomas and on Hudson. Strange as it sounds, but Hudson has not been conditioned to be much of a pitcher since high school, so keeping the innings off of her where we can probably helps as well now that she is the #2. Muller keeps the defense on their toes as she pitches to contact (with four hits over two innings), but MU had just the one error over the ten innings for the weekend and got Muller out of trouble when they needed to.
To answer my own question, I have to believe it is a good thing for Thomas to have been used so sparingly. Let’s be honest, 7 innings with 2 hits, 1 walk and 10K’s is very likely a line she has had in a complete game before. That one was only worth one “W”, while this weekend, the same line was worth two.
As for this coming weekend, I would believe Thomas is to start Game 1 and Friday like you said. For the twin-bill on Saturday, I could see Coach E starting Chelsea in Game 1 with the idea of a quick hook, or he starts Hudson with the thought that maybe Muller eats some of the innings and Thomas takes care of Game 2. I With the runs USC gives up, who knows how the weekend will go in terms of game length.
Q #2 - In the batter’s box, the Tigers whooped up on a .500 Georgia Tech, scoring 24 runs in 10 innings. Find something bad to say about this performance.
CPC - They didn’t score 25 runs. Honestly, it’s tough to see where anything went wrong without nit-picking too much. Mizzou only had 6 hits in the first game...but there were only 18 at-bats. At .333, that’s still above the season batting average of .322.
The 2nd game offered nothing to complain about, as the Tigers batted .440, even with numerous subs coming in and getting some at-bats “late” in the game. Nicole Hudson hit her 9th homer of the year and sits tied for 6th in the SEC in that category, despite far fewer plate appearances. She also remains the only hitter in the SEC with a slugging percentage above 1.000 at 1.109.
I’m just really positive about things this week and I guess that’s what happens after 2 beatdowns in 2 games played.
The Beef - Last week I talked about how excited I was to see Angie Randazzo getting the RBI’s without the HR’s. Well, kudos to you Angie for showing me how fun it is for you to get both at the same time. Also nice to see Sykes providing some pop with her 3rd of the season. Mostly though, I continue to be thrilled about Crane at the top, what Hudson is doing at #3 and how great of an early season Corrin Genovese is having. Like you, I enjoy when others get a shot off the bench in “situational” circumstances, like Rachel Hay keeping some innings off of Jenna Marston’s knees and providing some pop.
Going forward, we just need the other frosh, Sarah Moore to get it going. Strangely, she has more walks (5) than hits (3) on the season. If we can get her coming around a little bit, the lineup will be all the more potent. Obviously, we expect to see some regression to the mean in a few of these people (Carlie Rose is also over .400), but we do appear to have more consistency throughout the lineup right now than we did most of last year. I am sure that will make it all the more frustrating when we make it tough on ourselves with a 2-1 win or something.
Gazing to the weekend, South Carolina is 18-11 and 1-5 in the SEC and does not really have any sort of settled (or solid) pitching, though they have scored a good amount of runs. And by good amount, I mean 29 in one game against Alabama State. They are coming off a weekend series against LSU which saw them take the last game 4-1 after dropping the first two by a combined score of 10-0.
Q #3 - Without looking at the RMN Doppler 4000, predict the weekend to come for the Tigers and tell me when you start to look ahead to the April 3-5 series against Alabama.
CPC - Well, now that the Creighton doubleheader is off the table, it continues to leave everyone fresh for South Carolina. I expect the Tigers to win 2 games and likely take all 3 games. I don’t want to completely give the impression or flat out say that South Carolina isn’t good. Compared to the rest of the conference, they’re towards the bottom of the league both in terms of standings and RPI (only Ole Miss and Auburn are ranked lower in RPI). So far in the SEC, they Gamecocks have seen RPI #6 Alabama and RPI #4 LSU and have a combined record of 1-5 against them. So as easy as it could be to overlook them, they could still be dangerous.
Looking ahead, after a doubleheader against Missouri State, we get our own shot at Jackie Traina and Alabama. I don’t know if I’m following softball more than I ever have before or if pitching is that much better across the board, but if I’m putting a list of best pitchers together, Traina is very near the top of it. I’m sure we’ll get into the matchup more next week, but the Tide have Texas A&M this weekend and a midweek game against Jacksonville State before the Tigers head to Tuscaloosa. So, I’m hoping the Aggies take them to 14 innings in all three games and Jacksonville State makes them put in work on Wednesday.
The Beef - I have to believe that, despite their big bats (9 run-rule wins of their 18), we stand to do well, as their pitching is not tremendous. They are likely to throw RS Senior Audrey Broyles, who is (all stats before the LSU games) 6-3 with a flat 3.00 ERA. She has thrown 53.2 innings in 10 starts this year, giving up 47 hits and with only 11 walks. Not overpowering with 29 K’s, her batting average against sits at .232. She has also given up 10 HR’s, so if the wind is blowing out at University Field, it could be a good thing. The Cocks could also throw sophomore Karelynn Howser, who his 3-0 on the year in 6 starts with a 3.12 ERA in 27 innings or freshman Katie Marks, who is 5-5 with 7 starts and a 3.59 ERA in 52.2 innings.
All that said, I like the Tigers for the sweep but it won’t be easy. Since their last loss, the Tigers have won 7 (and had 6 more cancelled) by the combined score of 60-5. They are hitting well, pitching well and fielding fine. USC has some decent wins. They played Alabama REALLY tough at home, losing two two-run games and the finale of the weekend 7-6. They have their win over LSU on the road, as well as wins over #67 FIU and #102 College of Charleston, both by run rule. So while they have scored a decent amount of runs against good teams, they are just giving up too many of them. I like our squad being fresh and hungry to play and that will be enough to send them to the holiday Sunday on a high note.