Mizzou Links, 5-27-13

Chelsea Thomas was good, Mizzou's first year in the SEC is just about up, there's a new name on the masthead, and it's a Memorial Day Music Monday...

1. It appears Friday's loss still happened

MUtigers.com: Tigers Come Up Short Against Washington, 1-0
MUtigers.com: Mizzou / Washington Game 2: Post-Game Notes
MUtigers.com: Mizzou / Washington Game 2: Post-Game Quotes

HEAD COACH Ehren Earleywine

Opening Statement…
"First of all, obviously, I have three very special people here. I didn't always show it probably, or I'm not good at showing it, I'll put it that way, but I care about each of these three kids deeply and I'm going to miss them a great deal. They've done a lot for this program, they've done a lot for me and my family and I'm going to miss them a great deal."

On the hitting tonight…
"I can't explain it, especially the offensive part of it, you know, we've swung the bat pretty well all season. We hit well in the SEC tournament, we hit over.300 as a team this season, we probably hit close to .300, maybe even better in the SEC over 24 games. I don't know the explanation, I'm like Nicole, I don't know the answer, if I did I would've done something to fix it. They talked about being tight, potentially that could've been the thing. My mind works a little bit different, it is always working mechanical, the x's and o's of it, we were swinging down at a drop ball and up at a rise ball. That's the way I saw it. Our offense hit the skids, that's all I can say. Chelsea was good enough, Chelsea was way good enough."

On what he said to the team after the game…
"I couldn't say much. I just felt like it was an injustice to try to capture all that they've done. To try just wasn't fair. I couldn't talk anyway, I was hurting pretty bad. Not necessarily because of the loss, because of what those three girls have meant to me."

The Trib: Washington ends Missouri softball's season with 1-0 win
The Trib: A little Missouri softball lagniappe

Thomas allowed seven hits and three runs in the two games against Washington and she lost both games, two head-shaking final decisions in a glittering career. She finished No. 1 in strikeouts and wins, led the nation in ERA in 2011 and is the program's only multiple All-American pitcher. Earleywine on Thomas' legacy: "I've been a Mizzou fan since I was a little boy. I can't remember anybody having more success in any sport than Chelsea Thomas. In a non-revenue sport to be as popular as she's been and to create the excitement around the state that she's created ... she's kind of put softball on the map in the state of Missouri. The stands are packed, kids line up for her autograph, she can't go to the mall. It's just really cool." [...]

The future is a bright one. Missouri loses three exceptional players - Hudson as a slugger, Thomas in the circle and Marston as an extra-base popper who catches. But the Tigers will have a slew of sophomores returning who'll be more experienced juniors next season. And at pitcher? Missouri has two of the nation's best incoming: Tori Finucane and Casey Stangel, who also is great at the plate. Said Earleywine of the future: "Our team's going to be really relaly good for a long time. Plain and simple. If I didn't recruit another kid, we're set for the next seven or eight years," he said referring to younger players who have already committed.

KC Star: MU softball team’s season ends with 1-0 loss to Washington in NCAA super regional
KC Star: MU softball program owes a lot to seniors

Thomas, in particular, leaves behind a decorated legacy. After being chosen the Big 12’s pitcher of the year as a sophomore and junior, Thomas — a two-time first-team All-American and MU’s career leader in wins with 111 — did the same as a senior in the Southeastern Conference, despite being left off the preseason all-league team by the coaches.

"I feel like she’s as good a pitcher as there is in the country and I feel like the rest of us kind of let her down, to be honest with you," Earleywine said of his team, which totaled more errors (seven) than hits (six) in Thomas’ Super Regional losses to the Huskies.

"When you have a pitcher of her caliber, you should play for national championships often," he continued. "That’s my fault. I’m not only the head coach, I’m the hitting coach. I take all the responsibility for that. I feel like we missed a great opportunity in her four years here to maybe win it all."

The Missourian: Missouri softball team ends season with second straight Super Regional loss
The Missourian: New Missouri softball stadium plans on hold until location is set
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou falls short in Thomas' final outing
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou's Thomas: Grace under fire

I’ve covered Mizzou teams since the late 1990s. If you asked me to name the greatest athletes over that time — regardless of gender or sport — my list starts with footballers Justin Smith and Chase Daniel, shot putter Christian Cantwell, wrestler Ben Askren … and Thomas. Her collegiate body of work just might be the most impressive of the bunch,

In her collegiate finale, Thomas held Washington to one run on two hits, her 15th consecutive game allowing two earned runs or fewer. She was no less extraordinary under the tent in the postgame press conference. Wiping away tears, Thomas was all grace and class.

"Obviously this wasn’t the end result to the season that we wanted," she said. "But I’ve tried to look back at my career the past couple weeks. And it’s been more than I could have ever expected. The opportunities that I’ve been given and the people that I’ve met, all of the university and all of the community support has been unreal. I wouldn’t take any other place. I’m just very thankful and grateful for everyone that’s helped make my career here so successful."

PowerMizzou: Tigers' season ends quietly

2. SEC meetings begin tomorrow

Al.com: 5 Things to Watch at SEC spring meetings this week

To provide some level of certainty to schools, the SEC may schedule a half rotation (six years) or full rotation (12 years). Everyone wants to know who their rotating opponent is and when and where. The 2012 and 2013 schedules served as bridges that won't necessarily impact the order of future schedules.

But releasing 2014 won't end the bigger-picture talk about fairness and rivalries. Nick Saban has pushed for nine games, a topic that has some hardened and evolving feelings from some key SEC leaders. Les Miles has suggested eliminating the permanent opponent so LSU doesn't play Florida annually while Alabama gets a weaker Tennessee. There's no indication that LSU or Alabama has the votes to accomplish either of those goals right now.

Preserving the Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia rivalries is again facing challenges by the realities of a larger and hyper-competitive league. These days, who makes the SEC Championship Game determines who wins the national title. And with the playoff coming in 2014, strength of schedule figures to be a key factor.

Senator Blutarsky: Mike Slive prepares to take a victory lap
Al.com: Les Miles says SEC scheduling gives certain teams 'unintended and unearned advantages'
PowerMizzou: One-on-one with Brady Deaton

PM.com: As much as you can, take me back through that process from your point of view. You're navigating it as you go. Is there a time you come to a conclusion, does anything stand out as kind of a light bulb moment, this is what's got to be done, or was it just a gradual process?

BD: "Well, it was a gradual process, but certainly there were moments where we were very much involved in driving the Big 12 forward. So what happened that shifted that, of course with the public announcement that several universities were looking at other conferences. So the potential conference falling apart was right in front of you. And I happened to be chair of the board at that time, so those kind of moments stick out where you're going, 'Whoa, wait a minute here, I thought we were on a pathway, you know, to cohesiveness and doing the best we could do for the conference as a whole.' So those things stand out as moments where you shift and reassess what you're doing."

PM.com: How do you look back on the Big 12? Do you miss it? Has anything changed relationship-wise?

BD: "Oh, sure, it's changed in the sense that we spend less time (together) and that's a big change. I've worked with a great group of people and I have nothing but positive things to say in that regard. Great people, great institutions and obviously there is a great history there and I enjoyed the individuals very much. Frankly, in the last two days, it's come back full scope because of the incidents in Oklahoma, the tornados. I found myself at the computer sending a note of concern to Burns Hargis of Oklahoma State and David Boren at Oklahoma. So we exchange, 'I'll miss seeing you' kind of thing. And I see these individuals, Bill Powers, we see each other at the AAU meetings. Big hug and oh, 'Haven't seen you, it's been a while.' We used to see each other all the time so it would have been no big deal. It's a warmer experience if anything."

3. Football recruiting chugs right along

PowerMizzou: Expert Breakdown: Paul Adams
PowerMizzou: Summer decision for Kansas DB
PowerMizzou: Harrison has plenty of options

4. Go Tracksters...

MUtigers.com: Haarklau and Woodson Advance to NCAA Championships
MUtigers.com: Three More Tigers Earn Spots at NCAA Championships

5. Why yes, we DO have another name on the Masthead...

SimmonsField.com: A Tip of the Cap from SimmonsField.com
SimmonsField.com: A Tip of the Cap: And the Winner Is...

6. Happy Memorial Day, everybody

Hope it's both fun and safe for all of you.

Music Monday

Since it's Memorial Day and all, I'll go ahead and dedicate this Music Monday to my grandfather. Granted, he was always more of a George Jones guy, but I think it would have tickled him that I wen through a Johnny Cash phase for a little while...

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