In typical Missouri fashion, Tiger fans on hand at Mizzou Softball Stadium the past two weekends have been treated to temps hotter than hell one weekend to need-a-fleece-and-gloves the next. On Friday evening, the 2,632 in attendance - a new stadium record - braved the elements to do one thing— watch the Missouri Tigers take on the JMU Dukes in Game One of the Super Regionals. It… did not go as we had all hoped, but man… what.a.game.
In all honesty, we should have expected it, with two aces going up against each other— Jordan Weber, who pitched two complete game shutouts last weekend and only allowed two hits in the series, vs Odicci Alexander, who seemingly has a bionic arm. She pitched in all three games last weekend for a total of 22.1 innings and almost 400 pitches to go along with 30 strikeouts (including 19 alone in one game). So, we knew going in it was going to be a pitcher’s duel, and well… it was. I mean, just look at this through the first five innings:
First Inning: Jordan— three up, three down on groundouts/fly outs. Odicci- K. Ground out.Pop up.
Second Inning: Jordan- three K. Odicci- K. Fly out. Walk (Casidy Chaumont). Fly out. Wild pitch. K.
Third Innning: Jordan- K. Walk. K. K. Odicci- K. Groundout. SINGLE (Brooke Wilmes). Ground out. Fly out.
Fourth Inning: Jordan- three fly out. Odicci- three K.
Fifth Inning: Jordan- Fly out. K. Fly out. Odicci- K. Groundout. Pop out.
It wasn’t until the sixth inning when things started to get a bit more interesting for both teams. In the top of the inning, JMU got on base on a bobbled grab by SS Jenna Laird, which was ruled an error. Luckily, the next two batters popped out, and then Jordan had K #8 to end the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Abby George led off with a ground out, but Brooke Wilmes walked, then subsequently stole second base - her 17th out of 20 attempts this season - to put a runner in scoring position. Jenna then struck out — #9 for Odicci — and Hatti popped out, ending the inning, the game still knotted at 0.
In the top of the seventh, the Dukes had a number of things go their way that would ultimately put the game away. A leadoff hit to shortstop Jenna Laird effectively ruined Jordan’s no hitter, and she couldn’t make a play. The next batter struck out - #9 on the night- but the following batter was hit by a pitch, leaving a runner on first and second. Another infield single to Jenna came next, who had no play and continued an uncharacteristically rough game for her in the field. A bloop single to shallow center dropped down, and a run scored, making it 1-0. James Madison would need no other runs, but a shallow liner to Casidy Chaumont in left tacked on another run, making it 2-0. The final batter of the inning popped out, but the damage was done and the Tigers would need to score a minimum of two runs to keep the game going.
And my god, they almost did it. In the bottom of the seventh, Kim Wert led off with a foul pop out, but Casidy walked. Fans held their collective breaths as Cayla Kessinger hit a beautiful hard liner to right, but it veered foul (this happened several times throughout the game, and each time the crowd gasped… stupid wind). She ended up striking out, #10 for Odicci. Emma Raabe then walked, and the runners advanced on a wild pitch. Kendyll Bailey then also walked, loading up the bases, and so did pinch hitter Alex Honnold, walking in a run. It was 2-1, and the Tigers appeared to be coming back to life. However, it just wasn’t in the cards for Missouri Friday night, as Brooke flew out for the final out.
In hindsight, I really TRULY thought the Tigers were going to get it done. In the bottom of the 7th, after a run walked in and it was 2-1 with the bases loaded, the skies cleared and the godforsaken rain stopped, and I took it as a sign. The Tigers were going to pull this sucker off. Alas, I was wrong, and as soon as the game was over and done with, that damn rain came back. Like a tease.
Now, the Tigers face a possible elimination game tonight at 6pm and need to win the next two games. Let the record show, I do not believe for a second that this team will lose two games in a row. I fully expect it to go to 3 and that they will be playing on Sunday afternoon. This Tigers just have too much fight in them. And so do the fans. I expected it to clear out on the berm as the rain got worse— it was practically sideways with the wind— and Missouri was down going into their last at-bats, but these fans, just like this team, stuck it out til the very end. And they were almost rewarded.
So, Tiger fans, we’ll see you again tonight. It’s a big one. In the postgame, James Madison coach Loren LaPorte said they’d know about 2-3 hours ahead of game time if bionic woman Odicci Alexander will be back on the mound for JMU after throwing 125 pitches Friday night. If it’s not Odicci, expect to see freshman Alissa Humphrey, who is 14-0 with a 1.52 ERA on the season with 135 strikeouts. And if we go by last weekend’s Tiger schedule, we should expect to see Laurin Krings on the mound.
Here’s hoping for better defense, better offense, better plate discipline, and better… everything. As Jordan said in the post game, “If they beat us at our best, then they beat us at our best, but I don’t think we played our best tonight.”