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Softball Tuesdays with The Beef and CPC

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Chelsea Thomas pitching during the Black and Gold game.
Chelsea Thomas pitching during the Black and Gold game.

After CPC was able to fend off my questions in the Softball preview, we both figured why not subject him to further typing on a regular basis? Therefore, it is our hope this will become a weekly feature where we will aim to break down the week that was and look ahead to the week to come. Of course, we are going to want to write these sorts of pieces after the weekend the Tigers had in Santa Barbara, CA, so let’s get to it.

The Tigers started their 11-day west-coast odyssey with a season-opening five-game weekend in the Gaucho Classic. The Tiger bats were alive and well all weekend, but never more so than they were in the opener which saw them stroke five HR’s in a 11-3 (5) win against the host school. {For you Softball novices, the (5) refers to the fact the game ended via the run rule, which is up 8 after 5 innings} The Tigers finished the day with a workmanlike 4-0 shutout win over Fresno State. Saturday’s play opened similar to Friday’s as the Tigers took another 11-3 (5) win, this time over Fresno State before defeating San Diego 5-0. Sunday closed the weekend with a single game as the Tigers faced the host Gauchos one more time, defeating them 12-1 to finish the weekend 5-0.

Q #1 - So CPC, in your opinion, what was the biggest surprise of the weekend?

CPC: Firstly, it should be noted that our two wins against Fresno State were the first two wins in program history against the Bulldogs. Missouri entered Friday’s game with an 0-9 all time record. So, it’s nice to get that fixed in the record books.

The biggest (and most pleasant) surprise was the budding Mickey Mantle vs. Roger Maris battle for Home Run Queen. The first 4 games, it seemed like every time Nichole Hudson hit a homer, Kelsea Roth would respond. Through 5 games this weekend, Hudson sits on 5 while Roth has 3. To put into perspective how powerful those numbers are, Missouri as a team had 4 home runs through 5 games last year. To be fair, three of those games were against ranked teams.

How strong is the hitting? Let’s take a look at some numbers with some arbitrary cut-off points:

HR: Hudson (5), Roth (3), Randazzo (2), Hay, Jones, Muller, Rose, Sykes
SLG% (>.800): Hudson (1.833), Muller (1.600), Roth (1.400), Rose (1.200), Randazzo (.917), Sykes (.857)
RBI (>5): Hudson (11), Randazzo (5), Roth (5)

The Beef: For me, Corrin Genovese was the surprise of the weekend. I went into last week’s preview ready to accept that Genovese would likely provide stout defense up the middle (at either SS or 2B) and that she would be our #9 hitter. To see her turn in a 7 for 11 weekend with a couple of walks, four runs and three RBI’s is exciting. She was clean in the field as we expected she would be, but if she can infiltrate the lineup as the #2, that only makes our #6 and #7 positions all the stronger.

Beyond that, we had talked about the return of power from the likes of Hudson, Muller and Roth (and 9 HR’s signals a potentially nice return since those three combined for 21 HR’s last year), but also about the addition of other big bats. Nice to see Randazzo take the first steps toward that claim.

Q #2 - Though the Tigers won the weekend by a combined score of 47-6, can you find an area of opportunity or two without really feeling like you are nit-picking?

CPC: We talked privately about run support for Chelsea Thomas. In her first start (Friday vs. Fresno St.), the Tigers were able to score 4 runs on only 6 hits. However, they turned it around for her second start (Sunday vs. UCSB), as the offense had a very efficient 12 runs on 14 hits. I know, it’s only 2 starts and it’s the opening weekend, but it’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Where else might I nitpick? While everyone seemed to be going yard, the star of last fall hasn’t been as powerful. Emily Crane went 4-for-18 with 2 doubles and I have to wonder if she might not move down the lineup to gain some collegiate experience and confidence.

Defensively, the only thing I can nit-pick about was a fielding error by Nicole Hudson in her only start in the field so far this year. She’s coming off a year with only 3 errors, so I might be a little concerned if this becomes habitual. Crane also has an error, but she gets a pass as a freshman playing 2nd base for the first time. But I’m nit-picking because you wanted me to.

The Beef: I’ll give Crane a bit of a pass on this (and I do realize I asked you to nit-pick). She did 0’fer in her first two collegiate games, but came back to have four hits and two doubles in the last three games of the weekend. She had only the single HR over the fall season, but did have a ton of doubles. In reality, as long as she is ending up on 2B, whether it is by the Rhea Taylor double (bunt and steal) or otherwise, that is where you want her. If I am handing out nits which I’ve picked, I would hand one to Marston, who was below average in the important 3-slot. I’d give Sarah Moore a similar nit, but she deserves a similar pass in her first ever collegiate action. I only mention her because we both had her playing in our lineups, which only shows how little we know.

The Tigers stay in CA for the week (lucky them) and will play Thursday and Friday in Palm Springs at the Mary Nutter Classic before a double-header just up the road in Fullerton on Saturday. On Friday, they will take on a Maryland team which just kicked off play this past weekend and sits at 3-1, though they took a 10-2 drubbing at the hands of #13 Michigan. The Tigers will also play the Aztecs of San Diego State on Thursday. The Aztecs were receiving some votes after their first weekend of games saw them finish 3-2, but losses to #22 Kentucky and #1 OU will probably take those votes away as they are now 6-4. Fullerton is 3-6, though they will have a few games between now and next Saturday in which to better their record. That leaves only #5 Florida, who is 12-0 after an easy weekend at their home tournament. However, the weekend before saw them take down THREE ranked teams, with a 1-0 win over #9 Oregon, a 7-4 win over #8 Cal and a 14-3 win against #19 Arizona.

Q #3 - Not to overlook the other teams we will face this weekend, but how much are you looking forward to Chelsea Thomas vs. Hannah Rogers of UF?

CPC: You said in the links thread on Monday that it will make a nice measuring stick. Really, it’s Missouri’s only measuring stick ahead of conference play (not to look way ahead, but after this weekend, there’s only the Missouri Breast Cancer tournament before #10 Texas A&M comes to town). So a game against a historically good club should tell us exactly what needs to be worked out before the Texas A&M series. Winning or losing this game will be a direct result of how well we can hit. I know the obvious statement is obvious, but at this point, I think we know what we can expect out of Chelsea Thomas. This goes back to my point in the first support for Chelsea.

Comparing Chelsea and Hannah head-to-head, Chelsea is putting up strong numbers, albeit against weaker competition than Hannah:


CPC: I look forward to this game because of the potential for a pitching duel...something not often seen in softball. I deeply regret not being in Palm Springs to see this myself and am disappointed that such a strong matchup isn’t televised, as this would be a fun game to watch. If we pull out the win in convincing fashion, I REALLY like our prospects on the year. Any other result and I still like our chances, but I know there’s still work to do.

The Beef: Thanks to the stat-lines you created there, I will say I am a bit more excited about our potential to score here than I was otherwise. Yes, Rogers has taken down Oregon when they were 5th (5 hits, 8 Ks’) and Cal when they were 3rd (6 hits, 4 earned, 6 K’s), but her other three games were not amazing, and not against top-notch teams. She gave up 16 hits over 22 innings after being taken to extras by Charleston Southern, with 6 runs/4 earned with 18 K’s and 10 BB’s. Chelsea’s book of work is not nearly as long as Rogers’ so far, but it is better, with Rogers having been touched by both top and not-so-top teams, giving up a baserunner (39 H+BB’s in 38 innings) per inning. That said, I expect a battle that should make softball fans around the country salivate this early in the season.