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SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Tigers head to Oxford for three game SEC road series / GAME THREAD

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After a slightly disappointing 1-3 home stand against Northwestern, Stanford and Ball State, Mizzou looks for their first SEC win against a 21-7 Mississippi squad this weekend

Mizzou Athletics

FUN FACT: Mizzou led in every game this past weekend against (now) no. 9 Northwestern, (now) no. 25 Stanford x 2, and Ball State.

NOT-SO-FUN FACT: Mizzou only won one of those games (2nd game against Stanford, 5-0).

Rather than focus too much on the weekend’s recap, though, I’ll just provide some links to the inning-by-inning game threads I wrote during the series as well as Chris Blake’s Missourian recap. Instead, I’ll share what the players and Coach Anderson had to say in the Sunday postgame after the Mizzou Classic had concluded.

After the first three games — two extra innings affairs that resulted in Tiger losses on Saturday, followed by an uncharacteristic loss to Ball State on Sunday morning — Megan Moll had this to say.

“We [the team] were a little bit down. We didn’t have the same personality and happy go lucky energy after the earlier losses. After the first loss in the morning [against Ball State] we came together as a group and said, ‘You know what, let’s get back to playing Mizzou Softball. Let’s have a lot of energy, whether we’re playing great or not and just get back to who we are and our true identity as a team.’”

Anderson elaborated, saying the Tigers played “14 good innings” (out of 28) in the first three games. If you recall, the wheels really fell off in both extra innings affairs on Saturday (I blame the lights - or lack thereof - in the second one) and they were missing that extra “oomph” on Sunday morning against Ball State.

I title this, “The Night the Softball Gods Decided the Game was Over”
Karen Steger original

However, Sunday afternoon’s Stanford rematch was a different game, and it appeared the Tigers were back to their normal selves, with the offense firing and Laurin Krings tossing a complete game shutout.

What may have accounted for the pitching shift? Well, it seems that a meeting with former All-American turned Mizzou grad assistant Amber Fiser and the pitching staff might’ve done the trick. Anderson told reports in the postgame that during the meeting, Fiser talked with the team about what they need to do to compete at the highest level, and how they need to put the team on their shoulders, even when it’s so hard to do at times.

“That comes with a lot of pressure,” Anderson said, “but that comes with the territory and comes with the role and you have to be able to handle it.”

It should come as no surprise that some have handled this pressure better than others. No knock to the others, but some pitchers, like Krings, want it. “Laurin has always wanted the ball,” Coach said.

In regard to her ace’s performance on Sunday specifically, Coach Anderson said:

“This past game, Krings threw outstanding. She had great composure, and that’s really what she has been missing recently. She’s had good stuff and good velocity all season long, but her composure and mental side hasn’t been as strong as I’ve seen it in practice.”

Let’s hope this meeting did the trick for everyone, not just the pitching staff, and we’ll see the fire of the entire team going forward.

M-I-Z!

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

2022 RECORD: 19-9

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 5th in SEC

RANKING: #19 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #20 (D1 Softball), #19 (Softball America), #21 (USA Today/NFCA), #21 (RPI)

LAST 6 GAMES: Stanford (W 5-0, L 7-4 in 8 innings), Ball State (L 4-3), #14/12 Northwestern (L 9-6 in 10 innings), @Illinois (W 10-2 in 5 innings, W 7-6 in 8 innings)

2022 TOP PERFORMERS:

  • Casidy Chaumont, OF: .441 BA / 1.231 OPS / 18 R / 26 H/ 5 2B / 1 3B / 4 HR / 17 RBI / .763 SLG%
  • Jenna Laird, SS: .356 BA / .879 OPS / 19 R / 32 H / 5 2B / 1 3B / 1 HR / 9 RBI / .467 SLG% / .412 OB% / 15-16 SB
  • Kim Wert, DP: .346 BA / 1.112 OPS / 17 R / 28 H / 4 2B / 8 HR / 25 RBI / .691 SLG% / .421 OB%
  • Alex Honnold, OF: .338 BA / 1.030 OPS / 15 R / 26 H / 7 2B / 3 3B / 2 HR / 13 RBI/ .584 SLG% / .446 OB%
  • Brooke Wilmes, OF: .318 BA / 1.054 OPS / 20 R / 28 H / 1 2B / 1 3B / 8 HR / 19 RBI / .625 SLG% / .429 OB%
  • Kara Daly, 3B: .311 BA / 1.070 OPS / 13 R / 23 H / 1 2B / 9 HR / 20 RBI / .689 SLG% / .381 OB%
  • Jordan Weber, P: 2.49 ERA / 1.11 WHIP / 64.2 IP / 6-2 / 3 CG / 1 SHO / 46 H / 23 ER / 26 BB / 60 SO / 14 XBH / 5 HR / .204 Opp BA
  • Laurin Krings, P: 2.27 ERA / 1.10 WHIP / 77 IP / 9-3 record / 7 CG / 4 SHO / 62 H / 25 ER / 23 BB / 97 SO / 19 XBH / 8HR / .217 Opp BA

NOTES:

  • We are still on “Wert Alert”, as Kim Wert remains one singlular home run away from breaking Mizzou’s home run record. While we’re obviously hoping she knocks the cover off the ball all weekend, it’d be better for your beloved softball writers here if she’d wait and break the record in front of us. I speak for all of us when I say we’d really like to cover it in person.
  • While Kara Daly’s bat had cooled off considerably the first three games of the series, she got her hitting mojo back on Sunday. The rookie’s got nine home runs on the season, which is tied for second in the country.
  • Moving forward, if the Tigers are going to accomplish their lofty goals, they’re going to need to improve upon their at-bats. Anderson said they were very very susceptible to the change up and need to work on recognizing the off-speed pitches, especially the change. “We need to recognize which pitches we can take and the pitches we need to take,” Anderson said. “Bad pitches = bad results. We need to put a good swing on a good pitch.”
  • Additionally, the Tigers need to start manufacturing some runs again. The home run ball surely helps you to win a lot of ball games, but it can’t be the only thing a team has to offer. On Saturday, the Tigers only scored on home runs, so when that ball didn’t fly out of the park... ehhhhh. “We have to get runners in scoring position and utilize situational hitting,” Coach said. “We have to hit more balls hard.. and then more balls will fall for us.”
  • The Tigers are hoping to regain the services of Casidy “The Glove/The Almighty” Chaumont this weekend, as she sat out Sunday’s slate of games to rest. Those diving catches and such really take a toll on your body, I’d imagine.

HISTORY:

Missouri and Ole Miss have met up 19 times, with Mizzou leading the series, 14-5 (6-3 in Oxford). The Tigers have won the last five meetings.

Let’s go in-depth on Mizzou’s second SEC opponent, shall we?

Mississippi Athletics

WHEN: Friday, 3/25 @ 8PM, Saturday, 3/26 @4pm, Sunday, 3/27 @1pm

WHERE: Ole Miss Softball Stadium, Oxford, Miss.

TV/STREAMING: ESPNU (Fri), SEC+ (Sat-Sun), live stats on StatBroadcast

2021 RECORD: 36-22 (picked last in preseason, finished 8th)

2022 RECORD: 21-7

LAST 6 GAMES: @Mississippi State (L 0-6, L 3-7, L 8-9), Stephen F Austin (W 7-4, W 12-2 in 5, W 6-2)

RECORD VS RANKED TEAMS: 0-0

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 9th in SEC

RANKING: #33 (RPI)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

  • Tate Whitley: .500 BA / 1.102 OPS / 26 R / 45 H/ 4 2B / 1 3B / 16 RBI / .567 SLG% / .535 OB% / led team with .370BA and 30R in 2021
  • Bre Roper: .398 BA / .989 OPS / 15 R / 33 H / 7 2B / 1 HR / 19 RBI / .518 SLG% / .471 OB%
  • Angelina DeLeon: .385 BA / 1.044 OPS / 13 R / 20 H / 7 2B / 1 HR / 10 RBI / .577 SLG% / .467 OB%
  • Abbey Latham: .277 BA / .808 OPS / 15 R / 18 H / 4 2B / 2 HR / 16 RBI / .431 SLG% / .377 OB%
  • Savannah Diederich, P: 1.56 ERA / 1.13 WHIP / 4-1 record / 2 CG / 1 SHO / 3 SV / 45 IP / 39 H / 10 ER / 12 BB / 58 SO / 11 XBH / 4 HR / .227 Opp BA
  • Catelyn Riley, P: 1.73 ERA / .0.96 WHIP / 4-1 record / 2 CG / 1 SHO / 32.1 IP / 24 H / 8 ER / 7 BB / 23 SO / 5 XBH / 1 HR / .207 Opp BA
  • Brooke Vestal, P: 2.23 ERA / 1.18 WHIP / 5-1 record / 2 CG / 1 SHO / 31.1 IP / 24 H / 10 ER / 13 BB / 38 SO / 5 XBH / 3 HR / .205 Opp BA

NOTES/ACCOLADES:

  • Ole Miss was swept by state and SEC foe Mississippi State over the weekend for the first time since 2013.
  • Key Additions: Autumn Gillespie, a former Ole Miss catcher-turned-student-assistant, who’s training the young blood behind the plate. The Rebels also added 9 true freshmen and 2 transfers (they return 11). Brooke Vestal arrives from Oklahoma, where she was lightly used (3H, 5K in 7.1 IP in 2021, 3-0 in 25IP in 2020). Utility player Bre Roper arrives from Georgia Tech, where she started 167 career games and batted .298 with 9 HR and 42 R last season.
  • Key Losses: 2021 SEC All-Freshman Team Blaise Blringer to Arizona
  • Pitching: Aside from the three pitchers mentioned above, Ole Miss will also look to Anna Borgen (12-8 with 2.49 ERA, 89K, 30BB in 137.2 IP last season, but only 1-3 with a 4.77 ERA in 22 IP this season). Coach Traschel has talked about having a staff by committee that can focus on particular matchups, and that appears to be what they’re doing. There are six pitchers on staff, and four have pitched 30-45 innings (most are between 31-32 IP) and have won 4-5 games each.
  • 2021 All-Freshman Team honoree, Aynslie Furbush, is off to a rough start this season, batting only .182 with 3 R and 8 H so far this season (44 AB).
  • Ole Miss has had their share of issues, per D1 Softball’s Fall Report. Jamie Traschel was hired in April 2020 to take over for an interim coach, who was hired when former coach Mike Smith resigned amidst an internal investigation into the program. Traschel came in and led the team to a 36-22 record, but her staff was then subjected to its own internal investigations over anonymous allegations of mistreatment by assistant coach Katie Browder and Traschel (they were cleared). After that mess was cleared up, it’s important to look at what she was able to do: lead the Rebels back to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament, earning a no. 2 seed in the Tucson Regional.

TEAM COMPARISONS:

****************************************************************

GAME ONE, Friday 8pm:

ONE:

T1: Brooke Wilmes singles, but the Tigers can’t get anything else going. Wilmes popped out, then Laird and Daly both grounded out.

B1: The Rebels get one on base after a walk, but a strikeout - no. 1 on the night- ends the inning.

TWO:

T2: Honnold walks, but Bailey hits into a double play, and Raabe grounds out. Nothing for the Tigers.

B2: Weber gets the first two batters to strike out — no. 2-3 on the night — before walking a batter. She ends the inning with K no. 4.

This is the first I’m hearing of Hatti Moore’s horrific car accident on the broadcast. They said she’s not seen live pitching since January. That makes a lot of sense when you see the trouble she’s had batting this season.

THREE:

T3: Moore flies out to the center field warning track, and then both Maddi Snider (filling in for the injured Casidy Chaumont) and Daly ground out.

B3: After that single and a walk, Ole Miss hits a three-run shot, and the Rebels are up 3-0. Tigers are going to have to come back in this one. A shot into shallow right center drops down, and Mississippi has runners on first and second after a HBP with two away. And.... it’s 5-0 after a double clears the bases. SIGH. 9 batters come to the plate for Ole Miss and five runs score. It’s finally over after a fly out to left.

Anderson mentions on the broadcast that they’re going to have to hit some balls hard, and not jam themselves, and Jordan is going to have to control the plate better as Ole Miss is very, very aggressive.

FOUR:

T4: Laird gets a stand-up double, and it’s almost like they heard their coach’s comments! She’s on a seven-game hit streak. After Daly strikes out— she’s been feast or famine lately — Bailey’s line drive into left brings home Laird, and it’s 5-1. It’s her 17th RBI of the year. The inning ends on a line drive to short, and it’s a nice snag.

B4: Megan Schumacher comes in for Jordan Weber, who just didn’t have it tonight. Let’s see what She strikes out her first batter, and Bailey gets the second out. A little blooper to Schumacher gets the last out. And it’s quick work so far for Schu.

FIVE:

T5: Hatti Moore has a helluva AB, taking 9 pitches, but she ultimately fouls out to the catcher. Maddi Snider also has a great AB, and narrowly misses getting aboard. Wilmes flies out, and the Tigers still can’t get anything going. The ABs were better though.

B5: A liner to right and a pop out to second, and there’s two quick outs. A ground out ends the innings, and Schumacher is pitching well.

SIX:

T6: Laird flies out and Wert walks. The Tigers have one on as McGivern pinch runs for Kim. Daly gets caught looking, and there’s a popout to short. Tigers are running out of chances to get back in this one.

B6: An error gets a runner on first, After a K, Megan issues a walk before striking out the last batter.

SEVEN:

T7: Bailey flies out, Raabe singles, and Moore reaches on a FC. Hollingsworth is in to bat for Snider and strikes out to end the game. The Rebels are still undefeated at home (10-0) and take Game One of the 3-game series, 5-1.

****************************************************

GAME TWO, Saturday 4pm:

ONE:

T1: Jenna Laird on board with a lead off single. Her seven-game hit streak continues. Wilmes strikes out, and so does Wert on a pitch way down and in on the zone, and Daly grounds out. Tigers strand a runner on second.

B1: Krings gets the leadoff batter out on a grounder to third, but the second batter is on due to catcher’s interference. She walks the next batter on 4 straight pitches, before gettinng her first K of the day, but a pop out ends the threat.

TWO:

T2: Honnold flies out to left, but Bailey get the Tigers’ second hit of the game with a sharply hit grounder right up the middle. Emma Raabe reaches on a bouncer to short, but Bailey is out at second. Moore grounds out and the Tigers strand another runner. Still 0-0.

B2: Krings gets two more strikeouts — three on the day — before a single gets away from RF Alex Honnold (not an error). A double potentially could score a run, but a really heads up play by Wilmes with a relay throw by Laird gets the runner at home. Still scoreless.

THREE:

T3: Nothing for the Tigers who pop out and get two groundouts.

B3: Back on K Watch. After a groundout, Roper hits a sharp grounder at Daly, who’s not able to get a clean glove on it (ruled a hit). KKKKKrings gets her fourth and fifth punchouts.

FOUR:

T4: Nothing for the Tigers... again. They’ve been sent down in order two innings in a row now.

B4: A strikeout, a popout, and two more strikeouts keep the Rebels off the bases. Krings is up to seven K now.

FIVE:

T5: Tigers SCORE(!!!!) on a solo shot by Kendyll Bailey! Nothing else for the Tigers

Mizzou 1, Ole Miss 0 on the Bailey solo shot

B5: Krings allows her second walk, and Whitley hits a chopper to the left side —her second such hit like this today — and Laird can’t grab it. Ole Miss’ Roper homers to center, clearing the bases and it’s 3-1 Ole Miss now. Another walk gets a runner on first, and a two run shot puts the Tigers up 5-1. Larissa Anderson takes out Krings and Emma Nichols is in in relief. She gets the final out, but the damage is done.

Ole Miss 5, Mizzou 1 on two home runs

SIX:

T6: Laird gets on a base with a little bloop grounder near the pitcher. The Ole Miss shortstop makes a helluva grab for the first out of the inning on a Wilmes infield fly, keeping Laird firmly planted on first. Wert flies out to left and Daly walks, but Honnold grounds out to the pitcher to end the Tigers’ threat. Still 5-1 Ole Miss.

B6: After a leadoff walk, Emma strikes out the next, her first of the day. After another walk, Nichols grabs a bouncer to get the second out. An intentional walk of Roper loads the bases, but she’s able to get out of the jam and keep another run from scoring. Still 5-1 Mississippi

SEVEN:

T7: Kendyll Bailey strikes again, and the Tigers up now within 3 on her solo shot to left center. Chantice Phillips pops out to first on the first pitch she sees, and the Tigers are down to their final out. Jenna Laird lines out to short, and the game is over. Tigers fall to 0-4 in the SEC and lose this game, 5-3.

Mizzou adds two runs on solo shots from Bailey and Deters, but fall 5-3.

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 or able to watch at home, I’ll also be firing off some tweets from both accounts and doing game threads.