So another weekend affected by Missouri weather. Friday nights game was a classic pitching duel, broken only by Kelsea Roth’s walk-off, 2-run homer in the bottom of the 7th. In Saturday’s game, the bats woke up on both sides. Texas A&M was holding a 3-2 lead going into the 6th inning before the Aggies exploded for 8 runs in the top of the 6th. Chelsea Thomas was pulled early in the 2nd, but Nichole Hudson was unable to stop the bleeding. The Tigers were able to get a run back in the home half of the inning, but it wasn’t enough to stop the run-rule from being enforced.
Q #1 - Chelsea got beat up on Saturday. Does this give you concern as we look forward to the rest of the schedule and Coach E’s statements about how he plans on using her?
The Beef - I am no less concerned about her going forward than I was before the series started. For all her amazing accomplishments, Thomas has just never proven to be that durable. The SEC season is a gauntlet and three games in a weekend is a mighty tall order. If anything, I am almost relieved that the game was rained out, as the game not being played really should not hurt us that much in the grand scheme of things. Hudson getting rocked is what was most concerning to me coming out of the weekend. Teams should be able to adjust to pitchers in the course of a weekend, and I could show you many times where this does happen. Hudson coming in and getting hit around is what raised the biggest red flag with me because she represents the best of what is left in the bullpen.
CPC - I’m a little bit concerned. Chelsea pitched 12 outstanding innings Friday and Saturday and (seemingly) lost her touch when it mattered. I don’t necessarily agree with Stubble’s philosophy on Chelsea’s usage for the remainder of the season (although, I don’t disagree with how he used her this past weekend). I don’t like him wanting to subjectively use her on Saturday’s...I’d rather he started Hudson and bring Chelsea off the bench if needed. But, I’m not the manager.
Q #2 - Give me one result from the past SEC weekend that landed on your radar?
CPC - Well, it wasn’t over the weekend, but Florida visited Alabama in a showdown between SEC powerhouses last week. Florida won, 8-4, but what caught my eye was Jackie Traina’s line:
To me, it showed that she’s hittable. I’m sure there will be other games where the other ace pitchers in the league will be hittable and possibly beatable (see also: Chelsea Thomas on Saturday) but you expect to see your top pitcher to bring her A game in the big games. She didn’t and Florida made her pay. Maybe watching the game would put things into context (insert rant about ESPNU here) but just by looking at the stats, I feel a lot better about our chances in the pitcher-centric SEC.
The Beef - Strange to me that the Alabama/UF game was not a conference match-up, especially when you consider we also played UF out of conference. I will say the Traina thing does not resonate as much as the fact that Florida is giving up runs to people, including Auburn, who is not really considered a top SEC-softball school. I also enjoy that there are no perfect teams already in the SEC (though USC, UGA and Arkansas have yet to play in conference). But back to Alabama, that they also lost two of three this weekend to Tennessee is something to keep an eye on. Tenn/UF this weekend is BIG.
Q #3 - Missouri hosts a doubleheader Wednesday against Evansville before heading to Oxford for a weekend series against Ole Miss. What are you expecting to see on Wednesday to prepare for the weekend? What are you hoping to see against Ole Miss to make you feel more confident as the season progresses?
The Beef - Honestly, with Erwin gone, I do not look forward to multiple, mid-week games. I assume Hudson will go in one, but I really don’t know what Coach E will do in the other. I would guess it is Muller, but that does not bring me a lot of confidence at this point, just because it is an unknown quantity. As for Ol’ Miss, the Rebs were able to get a win against a ranked team in #15 Kentucky this past weekend, but their record is somewhat littered with losses to ranked and unranked opponents. What I need out of this weekend is a sweep, but with Thomas only pitching two full games. That would be the win-win for me and what I would hope to see, because we cannot pitch Thomas in all three games of every SEC weekend.
CPC - On Wednesday, I want to see the bats get hot again. Missouri had 10 hits in 47 at bats and only McKenzie Sykes and Kelsea Roth had extra base hits. I also want to see Chelsea pitch 4 or 5 innings in the first game and then I don’t want to see her pitch again. I don’t think we’ll need her in either game, but I think her pitching a few innings will get back any confidence lost on Saturday. I want to see a solid pitching outing for Nichole Hudson and Lindsey Muller as they need to pitch in these situations as much as possible.
This weekend, I’d like to see some consistency in the hitting and more solid pitching from the staff. I’d also like to get through all 5 games with very few fielding errors. Missouri had 3 on Saturday against the Aggies. Missouri is tied for 55th in the nation in fielding percentage anOle Miss is not a great team and this should be a good chance to give some other players some at-bats and some fielding time. Looking further ahead, there’s a doubleheader next week against Illinois in St. Louis and a weekend series against Georgia Tech...so this week is a good opportunity to work out whatever kinks and try whatever lineup changes Coach E might be toying with.