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SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Tigers look to get back on track in Champaign / Game Thread

After a disappointing 0-2 weekend against then-no. 18 Tennessee, Missouri faces an 11-7 Illinois squad on the road

Mizzou Athletics

When we last checked in on the Missouri softball team, they were not doing so hot. After the arctic tundra swept through CoMo last week, the three game set against Tennessee, with one game each to be played Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon, was smooshed into a two-game double header on Sunday. I’m not sure if the Lady Vols just got tired of waiting around and decided to take out their weather-related hostility and probable boredom on our poor Tigers, but y’all... it wasn’t a pretty brand of Mizzou Softball. Certainly not what we’ve become accustomed to seeing.

Game One — recapped by me here — was the most problematic of the two, as the Tigers were run-ruled right off the field in six innings. Missouri managed only four hits off of Texas Tech transfer Erin Edmoundson, who has been filling in more than admirably for the injured Ashley Rogers (D1 Softball’s no. 6 ranked preseason pitcher of the year). Also unfortunately, the Tigers had the absolute displeasure of being at the receiving end of Zaida Puni’s coming out party. Puni torched (tortured?) Missouri pitching on Sunday, going 2-for-3 in game one with three hits, three RBIs, a walk, and a three-run home run, and added another homer in game two. Before coming into the game, she was hitting below .300 so she didn’t even make my preview — sorry — and had only three times this season had a multi-hit game.

In Game Two, the Tigers were forced once again to come from behind, only this time they almost did it. Here’s what I had to say about the game in my links post Monday:

The second game of the afternoon looked at the start a lot like the first one, as the Lady Vols jumped out to a 5-0 lead on some uncharacteristic fielding errors and a few dingers before the Tigers were able to get on the board in the bottom of the fourth. An Alex Honnold double and singles from Kendyll Bailey and Hatti Moore made it 5-3 pretty quickly, and Tiger fans - including this particular writer - perked up. In the bottom of the fifth, Missouri tacked on another run on a Kim Wert sac fly, but they couldn’t close the gap, ultimately losing 5-4. Krings was pretty decent on the mound after the home run brigade, though walks were definitely an issue. In her complete game performance, her stat line read: 7.0IP, 4H, 5R, 4ER, 5BB, 5K.

M-I-Z!

2021 RECORD: 42-17 (ranked #8 nationally)

2022 RECORD: 16-6

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 5th in SEC

RANKING: #17 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #16 (D1 Softball), #17 (Softball America), #18 (NFCA), #23 (RPI)

2022 TOP PERFORMERS:

  • Casidy Chaumont, OF: .400 BA / 13 R / 18 H/ 4 2B / 1 3B / 3 HR / 13 RBI / .733 SLG%
  • Kim Wert, 3B/OF: .361 BA / 13 R / 22 H / 4 2B / 7 HR / 24 RBI / .770 SLG% / .431 OB%
  • Alex Honnold, OF: .339 BA / 12 R / 20 H / 6 2B / 2 3B / 1 HR / 7 RBI/ .559 SLG% / .443 OB%
  • Jenna Laird, SS: .338 BA / 15 R / 24 H / 3 2B / 1 3B / 1 HR / 6 RBI / .451 SLG% / /11-12 SB
  • Brooke Wilmes, OF: .338 BA / 16 R / 23 H / 1 2B / 1 3B / 5 HR / 14 RBI / .603 SLG% / .444 OB%
  • Kara Daly, 3B: .333 BA / 8 R / 18 H / 1 2B / 6 HR / 14 RBI / .685 SLG% / .410 OB%
  • Jordan Weber, P: 2.01 ERA / 48.2 IP / 5-1 / 2 CG / 23 H / 14 ER / 20 BB / 47 SO / .144 Opp BA
  • Laurin Krings, P: 2.49 ERA / 56.1 IP / 7-3 record / 6 CG / 42 H / 20 ER / 19 BB / 78 SO / .205 Opp BA

NOTES:

  • As a team, Mizzou has outscored its opponents 112-55 this season, and five players have double-digit RBIs.
  • Freshman Kara Daly continues to KILL it, and extended her home run streak to 5 straight (it ended there, unfortunately, as she didn’t hit one in Game Two). Head Coach Larissa Anderson continues to give glowing reviews of her cleanup hitter, calling her a force at the plate who’s athleticism is unparalleled. Batting fourth in the lineup adds extra protection for Kim Wert, and Daly is rapidly showing she’s a credible power threat in the lineup.
  • The pitching staff took a step back over the weekend, but Anderson is confident they’ll get it back together. At least with warmer weather expected, the Tigers shouldn’t have to worry about their grip being off. [crosses fingers]

Missouri and Illinois have met up a grand total of 14 times since 2009 in Braggin’ Rights games, and Mizzou holds the overall lead, 10-4, but Illinois has taken four of the last nine. They last met up on the softball diamond on March 11, and the Tigers lost 2-1. MUTigers.com was just full of fun facts on the matchup history, citing the March 25, 2015 game as the Tigers’ largest margin of victory when the they pummeled the Illini, 17-5. Mizzou’s scored 69 total runs against them in the past 13 years, and average roughly 4.93 runs a game.

Let’s go in-depth on Mizzou’s first Big Ten opponent mid-week opponent, shall we?

Illinois Athletics

WHEN: Wednesday, March 16 at 12pm and 2pm

WHERE: Eichelberger Field, Champaign-Urbana Ill.

TV/STREAMING: B1G+, live stats on StatBroadcast

2021 RECORD: 24-20

2022 RECORD: 11-7

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 6th in Big Ten (per D1 Softball)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

  • Megan Ward, INF: 2022 stats: .388 BA, 13 R, 19 H, 7 2B, 7 RBI, .531 SLG% / 2021 NFCA Mid-Atlantic All-Region Second Team, A-10 Second Team All-Conference, A-10 All-Tournament Team, A-10 All-Rookie Team (all with Dayton)
  • Danielle Davis, OF: 2022 stats: .353 BA, 5 R, 12 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, .500 SLG%
  • Freshman Stevie Meade, OF: 2022 stats: .339 BA, 10 R, 20 H, 6 2B, 1 3B / 1 HR, 14 RBI, .525 SLG%
  • Jaelyn Vickery: UTIL: 2022 stats: .333 BA, 1.100 OPS, 13 R, 17 H, 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, .686 SLG% / 2021 stats: .306 BA, 27 R, 37 H, 7 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, .446 SLG%, .404 OB%
  • Avrey Steiner, INF: 2022 stats: .338 BA, 11 R, 22 H, 3 2B, 7 RBI / 2021 NFCA All-Region First Team, Second Team All Big-Ten/ 2021 stats: .329 BA, 26 R, 51 H (tied for 10th in B1G), 4 2B, 2 3B, 14 RBI, .381 SLG %
  • Kailee Powell, UTIL: 2022 No. 17 in D1 Softball Preseason Big Ten rankings / 2022 stats: .263 BA, 8 R, 15 H, 8 2B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, .456 SLG%, .344 OB%. / 2021 stats: .328 BA, 29 R, 43 H, 10 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 28 RBI, .550 SLG%, .409 OB%
  • Sydney Sickels, P: 2022 stats: 2.09 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5-3 record, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 50.1 IP, 43 H, 15 ER, 11 SO, 70 SO, .221 Opp BA, 6.36 SO:BB ratio (5th in B1G) / 2021 stats: 2.27 ERA, 14-7 record, 15 CG, 144.2 IP, 111 H, 61 R, 47 ER, 34 BB, 162 SO, 13 HR, .211 Opp BA
  • Tori McQueen, P: 2022 stats: 2.42 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3-2 record, 2 CG, 34.2 IP, 30 R, 12 ER, 7 BB, 52 SO, .229 Opp BA, 7.43 SO:BB ratio (2nd in B1G) / 2021 stats: 3.74 ERA, 3-4 record, 2 CG, 43.0 IP, 44 H, 27 R, 23 ER, 13 BB, 33 SO, 7 HR, .257 Opp BA

NOTES:

  • The Fighting Illini are coming off a 2-2 weekend in the Tiger (Clemson) Invitational with wins over Liberty— twice, but also losing to no. 17/15 Clemson twice.
  • The Illini have played a handful of ranked teams so far this season. They split a series with no. 14 LSU on 2/12-13, lost to no. 25 Wichita State on 2/18, split a series with no. 10 Arkansas on 2/18-2/20, and lost twice to no. 17 Clemson last weekend.
  • Illinois once again has the services of outfielder Danielle Davis, who missed last season with injury. In 2020, she had a .254 BA, 15 H, 3 HR, 7 R, 15 RBI (10th in B1G). Two of her three homers that season were grand slams, so Davis does have some power potential.
  • Illinois, thankfully, is not known for the long ball, and has only 12 home runs on the season, compared to Mizzou’s 32. Delaney Rummell (.222 BA, .763 OPS) leads the team with 5, while Jaelyn Vickery (.333 BA, .1.100 OPS) has 3.
  • Illinois sit third in the Big Ten in batting average and leads the conference in doubles. Their pitchers are fifth in shutouts and fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
  • Key Addition: sophomore Megan Ward (Dayton) led the A-10 conference in hits (68) and the Flyers in BA (.417), Runs (28), and Assists (71) her freshman season.
  • Sunday’s victory over Liberty marked 600 career wins for head coach Tyra Perry. Perry, with Illinois since 2015, is the Illini’s second ever softball coach. Upon her arrival, she took the program to their first ever back-to-back NCAA Regional appearances in 2016 & 2017. The team again made the NCAA tourney in 2019 after a 33-25 season. Before the pandemic hit in 2020, they had three top-25 wins. Prior to Illinois, Perry had stops at Ball State, Western Kentucky, and Birmingham Southern.

TEAM COMPARISONS:

As always, stay up to date on all things Mizzou Softball this season by following me, @KarenSteger, and @RockMNation. I’ll have previews for each of Missouri’s series, as well as recaps when available. When I’m at the ballpark, I’ll also be firing off some tweets from both accounts.