clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2015 Missouri Tigers softball preview, part 2

New, 8 comments

In Part 1, we reviewed some final thoughts about the 2014 season before fixing our eyes on some of the key position players in 2015. Today, let's talk some pitching

Mizzou will need to improve upon their hitting in 2015 to take a step back towards national supremacy
Mizzou will need to improve upon their hitting in 2015 to take a step back towards national supremacy
The Beef

{Missed anything?  Check out PART ONE}


Switzy

Our biggest impact freshman is likely to be Paige Lowary, teaming up with Tori Finucane in the circle. What does that do for the Tiger pitching staff, and are we going to see any other changes there this season?


The Beef

Before I start down the path of the pitching (since it may be an interesting and exciting path), I do want to point out a newcomer who I will have my eye on, even though she is not a freshman.  Anna  Reed made the move to Mizzou from Jefferson  College, and her stat line for last season was nothing short of gaudy.  She batted .493 and sported a slugging percentage of .876 with 16 HR's, 23 doubles and a NATIONAL (NJCAA  D-1) leading 96 RBI's.  I am certainly not going to tell you I believe she is going to come in and do the same against NCAA D-1 pitching, but timely hitting is timely hitting, and if you have 96 RBI's, you are doing some timely hitting. Perhaps she can start out as one of our first PH's off the bench and work into more time from there.

As for the pitching, a healthy staff is the most important thing this team can ask for.  And the staff needs to be AT LEAST two pitchers deep, if not for the third.  There were so many seasons in our recent past where we could sit back before the season and think that a healthy Chelsea Thomas AND Kristen Nottelmann could make us really tough to beat.  Unfortunately, we rarely had that luxury.  For this coming season, a healthy Tori Finucane along with Paige Lowary could make us very tough to beat.  We all saw what Finucane was rounding into during the SEC season, and that was someone who was going out on Friday and Sunday and not only competing against the nation's best, but winning many of them.  A return of that would set us up very well.

However, we also remember what ours Saturdays in the SEC were like, and that was high-scoring affairs where we considered ourselves fortunate to win.  If Lowary can settle those down (causing Coach E to not have to feel ANY pressure to play Finucane), then I consider that a success.  Lowary certainly was impressive in her fall outings, but we do know that competition is different from fall to spring.

Also worth mentioning is UN-Omaha transfer Cheyenne Baxter, who also comes to MIzzou as a sophomore.  She filled some innings during the fall and was not always as sharp as I’d like to see from a third starter.  With me, I always hope those folks can provide some innings in blow-outs (on either side of them) and gets us some mid-week starts and wins against some of the lower level competition we might see. That helps keeps the innings off the weekend starters, and given our luck with pitchers, that can never be a bad thing.

Bottom line, this is a REALLY young staff, and the notion of a sophomore coming back from a season-ending injury being teamed up with a true frosh (and another soph moving to the high, D-1 level) can be worrisome for sure.  But the ceiling for this group is really high, and with only three senior starters, it would not be an awful thought to see this year as more of a building one.

So, before we get to talking about the specific schedule and our impossibly incorrect starting lineup predictions, let's talk more about that last thought.  How do you view this season?  Building? Re-building? Enough experience that we should be competing at the highest levels?  Mixture?


Switzy

Glad you remembered to mention Anna Reed, since my eyes apparently skipped over her name on the roster a few dozen times. I agree with your assessment - the more quality bats we can have, the better.  And she stands at least as good a chance as any of the freshmen.

The way I look at this season is simply: the team should be better. Very little production is gone from last year's squad. I have little doubt that the coaching staff will get increased production out of at least some of the returners, ala Taylor Gadbois from last season.  And the newcomers - both transfers and freshmen - will get a chance to play if they can demonstrate the ability. I think your point about pitching really is key. Finucane has proven herself, and the team could really use the same from Lowary.  And if Baxter can do as you say in the #3 role, that will be so important.

If Lowary comes in strong, I think Earleywine can relax and minimize the potential injury damage to the staff.  And in that case, this team will show the offense to compete for the SEC once again, which given the strength of the league, means competing to return to OKC.

In short, I think the Tigers should be competing at the highest levels this year, and the goals should be high. It should certainly be a fun season, with the combination of seasoned players and newcomers. What do you think - does Mizzou have the goods to host yet another regional and make it to the big tourney?


The Beef

Let’s see…hosting a regional likely means a top-16 (or so) ranking.  I think we are in the neighborhood.  I think we will start the inside the top-25, both because we deserve it and because we have become one of the established teams in the nation.   I assume we will see some strong names in some out of conference tournaments before getting into the meat of the SEC schedule.  Provided Finucane is healthy, I think that makes us a top-25 team in and of itself.  If Lowary proves to be capable of being competitive on Saturdays, it should mean some amount of other wins in mid-week and early season games.  That should push us into the top 15-20.  I believe we can continue to manufacture runs in games off the speed and hitting we are proven to have, but if the offense starts to come around and helps us win games when the pitching is off, that would be what pushes us towards the top 10-15 and cements that Regional big.  I think the ceiling for the team, at this point in the "season" is probably just outside of a top 8-10 spot.  A solid goal for this group is to get back to the Super Regional and continue to build towards the coming years.

The following year, send University Field out with a bang and some experienced pitching, which should be a good formula and in 2017, you have some VERY veteran pitching towards the top to bring in the new digs, plus the recruiting (you have to imagine) will accompany that sort of move (perhaps even beyond the level at which it already exits, which is high as it is).

So while we wait on that final schedule to be released, you want to take a crack at your starting 9/10?


STAY TUNED FOR PART 3