1. Mizzou Softball’s done
On April 19, Mizzou completed a midweek sweep of SEMO and Nebraska-Omaha to go to 27-18 and, as we could figure out soon enough, clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament. From that point forward, the Tigers would go just 2-10, losing seven of nine to end the regular season, dropping its first game in the SEC Tournament, and getting swept out of the NCAAs with a 7-2 loss to Wisconsin on Friday and a 5-4 loss to UIC on Saturday.
Against UIC, Mizzou trailed 3-0 after five innings but scored one in the sixth and three in the seventh to surge into the lead. But in the bottom of the seventh, Madi Norman allowed three singles and a sac bunt, enough to push two runs across the plate and secure the come-from-ahead-and-behind win.
Norman had pitched three shutout innings before the seventh, buying Mizzou time to make a comeback.
Still, Mizzou allowed 6 runs per game in the postseason this year and 5.3 per game over the final 12. That isn’t going to cut it, and with the graduation of Cheyenne Baxter, the pitching staff is starting over in a way again next year. Norman and Danielle Baumgartner are sophomores, and Parker Conrad is a freshman, but they’ve got some obvious development to do.
2. Mizzou Baseball’s just beginning (hopefully)
On April 19, Steve Bieser’s Tigers were a day removed from a 5-3 home loss to Missouri State. It was the second loss of what would become a stretch of eight losses in nine games. At the end of it, Mizzou stood 27-18 and 8-13 in SEC play with an RPI bombing out of the top 60. Tourney hopes: gone.
Since then, though, Mizzou is 8-3. The Tigers took a game from Vanderbilt, then took the final two games of a series against South Carolina. They pummeled EKU, then went to Knoxville and swept a three-game series against Tennessee by a combined 15-2.
Mind you, they held Tennessee to two runs in three games without Tanner Houck, whom Bieser was evidently saving for the SEC Tournament.
Mizzou is now 35-21, 14-16 in the SEC, and the No. 10 seed in Hoover. The Tigers have won six games in a row, and their pitching staff is deep and smoking hot. They might not be in the NCAA Tournament field yet, but a couple of wins in Hoover could give them a hell of a case.
Now ... about Hoover: Mizzou drew the worst possible matchup in the first round, a single-elimination game against a Texas A&M team that swept the Tigers in Columbia. The sweep occurred in the middle of the awful 1-8 stretch, and the Aggies outscored the home team by a combined 25-4.
Mizzou and A&M will go at it at 2 pm CT on Tuesday. If the Tigers win — and that’s a mighty “if” — they’ll face No. 2 seed LSU on Wednesday to begin the double-elimination portion of the tournament. But it’s quite possible that their NCAA hopes will ride on Houck’s arm on Tuesday. They’ve battled back incredibly, but the last step here might be the hardest.
Of course, with a 7-17 record against the RPI top 50, it could take a couple more wins in Hoover after A&M to get it done. Whatever. A&M first.