Something is happening with Mizzou Softball. Specifically, something happened yesterday which could set the tone for an end of the season run. Larissa Anderson took her top 20 ranked Tigers on the road to Fayetteville to take on the top 10 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks and walked out with a 6-3 win. Watch the highlights here:
You can read about the game here, I’m not going to recount the win. Instead, I’m going to talk about the hire Jim Sterk made when he brought in Larissa Anderson.
Mizzou Softball has long been one of the better more consistent programs at Mizzou. Jay Miller had success over 15 years in the dugout, Ehren Earlywine clearly had success, and with the help of Rock M Nation, even raised a fair amount of money with some charity drives. But the Earlywine era ended in rocky fashion, and while Gina Fogue did an admirable job after Earlywine was forced out, the program was clearly looking for new leadership and a very new look to the program.
While not every Sterk coaching search has been run with the kind of precision you might want to see, he’s so far landed on some good coaches. Clearly fans are excited about Eli Drinkwitz, and Cuonzo Martin has rebuilt and re-raised expectations around the Mizzou Basketball program. But maybe the best hire so far was him plucking Anderson out of Hofstra University and putting her in charge of the program.
In year one, they won nearly as many SEC games as the prior two years, and last season Mizzou was 19-7 and 3-0 in conference before COVID shut everything down. Pivot to this year, and while things have still been impacted by COVID, the Tigers are 33-10, 11-5 in conference, and they’ve got 7 top 25 wins so far this year. If the season ended today Mizzou would finish 3rd in the conference behind Arkansas and Florida. With just 8 games remaining, and five of those games against both Arkansas and Florida... let’s just say there’s a lot still on the table.
At least some of the credit for the Tigers’ success can be given to the smart hire of Chris Malveaux as hitting coach. Malveaux was quickly promoted to Associate Head Coach and gets a decent amount of credit for keeping the Tigers raking. They rank second in average, second in runs, third in home runs, and in the more advanced stats... second in slugging% and second in on base percentage. They’re basically the second best offense in the league after Kentucky.
It’s been a big step forward for the Tigers this season, and as I said earlier there is still a lot on the table, starting today. If they can win one of the next two against the top seeded Hogs, they win the series and would move to just a game back from 1st place.
Anderson has this program humming, and in just a few short years has them contending for a conference title and in the top 25 with less than 10 games to play. That’s a heckuva start to what looks to be the right fit for hopefully the foreseeable future. The next step begins today at 3pm.