Note: This was written before Ross Dellenger's lovely Q&A piece with Ehren Earleywine. Read that, then read this.
So what do we do at Catcher?
Mizzou will return one start behind home plate, belonging to RS-sophomore Alyssa Cousins. She saw action in 9 total games, going 1-7 at the plate with 2 RBI’s with a walk and three strikeouts. Is she the answer back there? Could it someone like Randazzo, who the roster on MUTigers.com reflects as “3B/C”? Could it be Rose, who has the same “C” next to her “OF”? Or perhaps it is someone like Crane or Genovese or Fagan who we just are not considering right now? Or could it even be someone else? That leads us to….
Newcomers (with the best stats I could find)
Seven out (six seniors plus Erwin) leads to seven in. Announced (at this time) are six freshmen whose class will likely have a tremendous say on the long-term success of this program. Just how much of an impact will they have this year? Tough to say. Two years ago, Coach E redshirted a number of freshmen. Last year, both of them played pretty extensively. We are presuming two will play quite a bit, but what about the other four?
Kirsten Mack is a big bat coming to Columbia from California. Her MUTigers.com release boasts 15 HR’s over the course of her 2012 summer where she hit .421. This was after hitting .341 with 16 HR’s the previous summer, so clearly she has pop. Listed as an infielder, she also appeared to play some outfield and some catcher in high school. I show she hit .673 this past scholastic season with a OBP of .733 with 36 RBI’s and 21 runs scored on 33 of 49 hitting.
Natalie Fleming should be a familiar name to Tiger fans, as she extends the Mizzou connection to Silex and the Fleming family. Natalie certainly carved out her own records and accolades, earning All-State three times and hitting .464 with a slugging of .681 last fall. She went 32-69 on the season and is listed as “IF/OF”.
Jordan Zolman is from a town in Missouri I have never heard of before (Arbyrd, MO). In what is a really short season for Southland High School (14 games), Zolman did it all for them. She batted .741 on the year, with 3 HR’s and 19 RBI. Amazingly, she was intentionally passed 27 times (in 14 games). She was also THE pitcher for Southland, going 11-3 with an ERA under 2. She walked only 18 while striking out 214. She is listed as a corner infielder or pitcher.
Kelli Schkade hails from Albany, Texas and has some very impressive numbers for a potential middle infielder/OF. In 2012 she hit .620 with quite a bit of pop. She produced 18 doubles, 10 triples, 10 HR’s with 22 SB’s, 52 RBI’s and 72 runs scored. If anything, Schkade’s immediate future may be in the outfield considering the age of Genovese and Crane, but those offensive numbers signal someone who may see the field early if she can make the transition.
In the Circle
As referenced by Ross Dellinger, it would appear Mizzou will have at least three pitchers on the squad next season, as they aim to add (though not yet officially) Alora Marble. Marble was the starting pitcher for SEMO in 2011 and 2012 before leaving the program this past season, meaning she would enter Mizzou with two years to play. Marble 33-23 in two years with SEMO, pitching 360+ innings over that span. She gave up 385 hits and 201 runs (only 146 earned for an ERA likely around 2.75 if I bothered to do the math) with 91 BB’s and 199 K’s. While I do not believe Marble will be someone we see much of on the weekends, I think her presence will be important both as someone who can eat innings mid-week, as well as someone to give some help and advice to the next two people we will review.
There is not much Tori Fincane has not accomplished in softball the past two seasons. Playing out of the D.C. area, here is what I can put together for a stat line from the past two seasons. 53-2. 325 innings pitched with an ERA of roughly 0.15, with 81 hits, 15 runs (only SEVEN earned), 8 doubles, 4 triples and ZERO HR’s. Opponents batted around .077 against her, with an OBP of around .131. Oh yeah, and she had 673 strikeouts, which is just more than two per inning. Lost in these gaudy stats is that Finucane was not bad with the bat either, hitting .554 this past season (41/86) with 45 RBI, 21 extra base hits (8/7/6) and she did not commit an error in the field, though at less than one putout opportunity per inning, she likely did not have many chances. All the awards and accolades are there…
…but let’s not allow that to dull what Casey Stangel will bring to the Tigers. Coming out of Couer d’Alene, ID, Stangel’s numbers in the circle are extremely solid. 26-0 with an ERA of 0.72 over 137 innings with 198 K’s and only 30 BB’s and 4 HR’s given up in her senior year. But what surprised me about Stangel were her offensive numbers. Batting average of .640 with 57 hits, 54 runs and 65 RBI’s. She was a doubles machine with 18, but also added 15 HR’s. She walked 21 times, only striking out 4, leading to an OBP of .705 with a gaudy slugging percentage of 1.348. Could she be someone who not only bats when she pitches, but even maybe bats otherwise from time to time?
So where does that leave the lineup?
Understand this next section represents nothing more than a very minimally educated guess. At the very least, you will see the logic I was using to make the placements I did. This was fairly easy for me at the top and bottom of the order, but the middle (5-6-7) proved to be tricky.
Sami Fagan (RS Soph-3B) – I believe her speed and ability to not just bunt, but hit for average have to put her at the top of the lineup. Also, she was very solid defensively in her own year at UF, recording only 5 errors and a fielding percentage of .966.
Emily Crane (Soph-2B) – Because I see Crane’s offense repertoire as being a little different than Fagan’s, I feel good about moving her here. I can see some power perhaps starting to bud in Crane, and while she has solid speed, I just have to put the most right at the top.
Kelsea Roth (Jr-1B) – The strikeout rate is a little concerning, but I perceive her to be the biggest bat in the lineup, and this is typically where that person lands.
Angie Randazzo (Jr-C) – The RBI machine from last season should continue to have lots of chances out of the four-slot. What would also be great would be her ascension into double-digit HR’s, which is not too far off. As for the defensive placement, consider this one of those early guesses.
Mackenzie Sykes (Sr-CF) – I was pretty unsure about this spot, only because I would not mind seeing a LITTLE more power here. But this is not terribly far removed from the #6 spot she batted at times towards the end of the year, and I believe she is entrenched as the only senior in the starting lineup.
Kirsten Mack (Fr-DP) – I went back and forth between Mack and Schkade here, as I was just looking for as much offense as I could find. I don’t believe Mack has a spot in the infield, while I could see potentially Schkade ending up in the outfield considering how set Crane and Genovese appear to be. But I think Mack brings a longer record of power and against better competition (though Cali over Texas for Schkade is close), so she wins out.
Sarah Moore (Soph-RF) – Considering how poorly Moore ended up playing for the year, that Coach E kept coming back to her, especially in SEC play, makes me believe that he knows what he has and is just waiting for it to come out.
Corrin Genovese (Jr-SS) – Yeah, this is low. But I think if you have a .300 hitter who has some speed and a little power, this is a perfect spot for them. I really don’t know about the options she might have at catcher, only mentioning it because Marston was a catcher before moving to SS.
Kayla Kingsley (Jr-LF) – If she is 100 percent, then I love her in this spot. Hit well for average and would have stolen double digit bases had she been healthy for the season. The pressure she and Genovese could potentially put on a pitcher coming back around to Fagan and Crane would allow you to play small ball at times, while also playing for the bombs in the middle of the lineup.
You want to talk about a lineup that might sneak up on people? I realize that is tough to do when you are talking about a team as nationally relevant as Mizzou, but let’s remember what I talked about the narrative being (youth and replacing seniors) for the program back in our first piece. But if the pitching is there as their pedigrees suggest, this could be a lineup with really nice balance, especially since you really only have a couple of spots right now that are in flux. Regardless of where they play, you know that Fagan, Roth, Crane, Genovese, Randazzo, Sykes and Kingsly (if healthy) are going to return. That is at least two-thirds of your lineup right there. Infuse some additional youth (as anyone else is going to be a junior really) and you don’t have many holes to fill. And not at all to look past 2014, but how good could 2015 be, especially if we can get some stadium schematic plans down on paper with which to help Coach E recruit all the more? Good times.