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RECAP: Progress! Even in series loss, Mizzou Softball shows signs of growth, promise

Yes, the Tigers only won 1-of-3 in the series, but there was plenty to be encouraged about

@MizzouSoftball | twitter

The Missouri Tigers, (no. 27 USA Softball/NFCA, no. 30 ESPN/USA Softball) now 25-17 on the season and 5-9 in the SEC (10th place), welcomed in no. 13/14 Georgia for a three game set over Easter weekend, and while they only took one game, there was a lot to like. Really.

At the weekend’s conclusion, Anderson was pretty complimentary of her team, despite losing the series. “I think our energy and attention to detail was outstanding the whole way through,” she said. “I saw individuals continue to get better... I think we just continue to build on this. I saw some great at-bats.”

Let’s recap. There’s a lot to go through, so prepare your eyes for many words.

GAME ONE: Thursday at 6:30pm | Mizzou 3, Georgia 4

Check out my recap here.

Stat Lines:

Missouri Offense: 3 R | 8 H | 2 BB | 6 SO | 8 LOB

Krings’ stats: 5 IP | 7 H | 4 R | 3 ER | 3 BB | 7 SO | 27 BF | 105 pitches

Schu’s stats: 2 IP | 1 H | 1 BB | 4 SO | 7 BF | 35 pitches

Georgia Offense: 4 R | 8 H | 4 BB | 11 SO | 9 LOB

Kerpics’ stats: 7 IP | 8 H | 3 ER | 2 BB | 6 SO | 32 BF | 121 pitches

GAME TWO: Friday at 12pm | Mizzou 6, Georgia 2

The game got off to a hot start for both sides, seemingly trading solo home runs in the first two innings. Sara Mosley (you’ll remember this name) got Georgia on the board early with a solo shot to left with two out in the first on a pitch that was up and in on her hands, and Jenna Laird responded in the bottom of the inning with a lead-off shot of her own to right center. In the second inning, the same thing happened, as Jayda Kearney led off with a solo shot to right center before Kendyll Bailey also responded with a lead-off solo shot in the bottom half (her 9th of the season), knotting the score at 2-2. It was wild, y’all. Continuing her recent string of positive plate appearances, Emma Raabe hit a ground ball to right for a stand up double, but Missouri was unable to add any other runs.

It wasn’t until the top of the third when Weber allowed her first base runner (that didn’t tag all the bases) with a hit by pitch with two outs, but the inning ended on a flyout. In the bottom of the inning, Casidy Chaumont extended her extra base hit streak to six games with a two-out double on some savvy base running, but the Tigers were unable to bring her home. Crazily enough, this was the first inning either team was able to get aboard without it being a home run.

After a 3-up, 3-down inning for both teams in the fourth, the Tigers struck again offensively in the fifth with two outs, as Jenna hit her second solo shot of the day to center and Brooke Wilmes followed that up with her own to right to make it 4-2. I was excited.

Mizzou wasn’t done, though, as with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Alex Honnold singled through the right side — the game’s first single — before PH Megan Moll crushed a two run moonshot to left to make it 6-2. Raabe got aboard just after that excitement — the SECOND single of the game and inning!! — but her PR, Maddie Snider, was thrown out stealing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Jo began the seventh with two quick outs before allowing just her third hit of the day (a double) and a walk (her second) before a small little grounder to third ended the game. Weber picked up another complete game win on the year with a gem of a performance.

What Went Well:

  • A LOT... The offense was firing on all cylinders, and the defense was spot on in Friday’s matchup. From Jenna Laird’s postgame, when asked about her role as shortstop and the team’s focus:

“I’m kind of just focusing on keeping everyone together, me and Kendyll Bailey (2B) next to me,” she said. “We just want to make sure that we’re all playing one play at a time, rather than, when something bad happens. We take it in. Think about it. I feel like when something bad happens, whether it’s a home run or an illegal pitch basis, we just kind of shake it off and get to the pitch and the next batter.”

Stat Lines:

Missouri Offense: 6 R | 9 H | 2 2B | 5 HR | 3 SO | 2 LOB

Jo’s stats: 7 IP | 3 H | 2 ER | 2 BB | 2 SO | 27 BF | 89 pitches

Georgia Offense: 2 R | 3 H | 2 BB | 2 SO | 4 LOB

Mathis’ stats: 5 IP | 6 H | 4 ER | 2 SO | 21 BF | 73 pitches

Rogers’ stats: 1 IP | 3 H | 2 ER | 1 SO | 5 BF | 17 pitches

Karen’s Players of the Game:

  • Jenna Laird was unstoppable, both in the batter’s box with her two bombs and in the field, displaying dazzling fielding. In the SEC Network postgame, Jenna said she wasn’t looking for a home run, and explained that the Tiger hitters were trying to be “aggressive without being too aggressive,” and that in Game 1, the Georgia pitchers were so aggressive they were swinging at balls. She continued, “Today, we swung at good pitches.” As for what led to her success, Jenna said in the local media presser that she just went in with a totally different approach.

“I knew that they were going to be throwing me outside so I just kept going with it. I knew that if I was swinging hard enough, it would be put in play rather than over the fence and I just kept going with it, seeing the ball very well today and just took everything out as best as I could.”

  • Jordan Weber’s complete game effort was great. Despite allowing two solo shots in the first couple innings, she was able to keep the Bulldog hitters off the bases for the most part the remaining innings. After the aforementioned HBP, it wasn’t until the 5th when she walked her first batter, and the 7th that she allowed a non-home run hit - a double - to go along with walk no. 2. From the postgame presser, where Jo talked about her overall performance:

“Well, something our coaches have really been harping on us is one pitch at a time. So that was something I was focusing on every single batter was making sure that pitch was my best pitch and just going one pitch at a time really.”

“It’s [getting a win] a really big deal for us, considering we have been struggling a bit so getting that win for us is definitely going to bring the energy out for us.... I mean, we’ve been working on hitting locations and spots and we’ve been scouting a lot so that just makes us feel better because we’ve been putting in the work and making sure we’re doing what we need to do before games.”

  • Megan Moll’s pinch-hit shot to Mizzou Arena (seriously, it was a longgg homer) put a punctuation mark on a great day of Tiger hitting. Coach Anderson said she’d asked the team the day before who was ready to be a pinch hitter, and five or six hands went up, including Megan’s. She told the players to watch the pitcher’s tendencies and look at their hot zones, so when the Bulldogs brought in Britton, she asked Coach Transue who she thought the best matchup was for that pitcher. She was a “curveball, screwball, changeup” type of pitcher. “That was Megan Moll to a nutshell,” Coach said, “And she really capitalized on the pitch. It was right in her wheelhouse.”
  • Emma Raabe’s bat came alive, recording both a single and a double on the day.

What Coach had to say:

“Much needed great outing by Jordan Weber. She threw a gem and kept them off-balance. There’s only two balls that were hit really hard, and that was really great to see. We need her. She’s been tremendous for us in the past and we really needed her to really come through and she just did a great job... I mean, the bats came alive. It was great to see getting some offensive production and hitting the long ball and hitting it hard finally, for the first time in a while, all the way through the lineup.”

“Georgia is such an aggressive hitting team. And pitchers are so accustomed to throwing strikes. Like that’s what they want to do, and when you face an aggressive team, it’s okay to throw water-like pitches and get them to chase at balls. And that’s what Jordan did great. And that’s what Krings got in trouble with yesterday (Thursday).”

GAME THREE: Saturday at 5pm | Mizzou 1, Georgia 3

With Georgia ace (and game one winner) Madison Kerpics back on the mound, fans hoped that the Tigers had figured her out and gotten something going. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. When asked in the postgame what kept her Tigers hitters guessing, Coach Anderson said:

“We never ever got on time and we were dominated by that change up and we have to be able to make adjustments to different pitch speeds and know what we’re looking for in every pitch. She (Kurpics) throws it multiple times within at-bats, so she’s changing speeds constantly, and we would get caught in between on, ‘Do we want to sit change-up or are we looking for something hard?’ And she was just erratic in terms of when she threw it. So it was very hard to be able to sit on something off-speed because she was throwing it in every single count. We just have to be able to recognize it a little bit more.”

Georgia jumped out in front in the second inning of Game 3 on the first of TWO Sara Mosley homers, and the Bulldogs quickly went up 1-0. Jordan Weber, working her second game in a row, wasn’t fazed however, and proceeded to retire each of the next ten batters. In the fifth, UGA scored again on — you guessed it — another solo shot, this time by Jaiden Fields, making it 2-0. It wasn’t until the fifth that Weber even allowed another baserunner — a walk — and it wasn’t until the sixth that Weber allowed a non-home run hit — a double to Sydney Kuma.

As for the Tigers’ offense, there were hints of mini rallies throughout the game with a hit here or a walk there, but Missouri just couldn’t get anything substantial going against Kerpics. The press box closely monitored her pitch count as some Tiger batters were able to work her deep into counts, hoping Kerpics would be driven from the game and the Tigers would get a chance against one of the Bulldogs’ lesser pitchers (the rest of the staff is in the mid 4s, ERA-wise) but alas, it didn't happen. In the bottom of the 4th, Casidy Chaumont was oh-so-close to launching a home run into left, but it hooked foul at the last second, and she ultimately struck out, ending the threat. It wasn’t until the top of the 6th when Brooke Wilmes’ solo shot got a run on the board that the Tigers finally scored a run, but until that point, the Tigers’ only real offense came from a Kendyll Bailey single in the 2nd and four Tiger walks.

In the top of the 7th, Mosley was back at it, hitting her second leadoff homer of the day, which also ended Weber’s night on the mound. Megan Schumacher entered and her stuff wasn’t quite as good as it was in Game 1. She allowed two immediate singles, but was able to get out of the jam and keep another run from scoring, leaving the game at 4-1. A Kara Daly walk allowed brief hope for fans in the bottom of the seventh, but Raabe struck out to end the game after a shot to left (much like Casidy’s in the fourth), looked like a home run until it hooked foul.

What Went Well:

  • Jordan Weber’s good weekend continued. She really seems to be hitting her stride. Despite the home runs, she had a good game, inducing 15 flyouts to go with a single groundout. From Brooke Wilmes in the postgame:

“She (Jordan) did fantastic. It’s just really awful when three of their hits just turned out to be home runs. She did a fantastic job. She held one of the best hitting teams in the nation to three runs and this whole weekend. So I’m happy to see her hit her stride back again and be the pitcher that we know she can be.”

  • The Tigers came out of this game, as they did in Game 2, with much more concentration.
  • Mizzou has now hit 62 home runs on the season, which is tied for 8th in program history.

What Didn’t:

  • The Tigers’ inability to capitalize on baserunners, and their inability to figure out pitcher Madison Kerpics. They struck out a lot — eight times — including two apiece by Wert and Raabe, and one each by Chaumont, Bailey, Daly, and Moll.
  • Additionally, while the Tigers walked four times, jacking up Kerpics’ pitch count, each of them (Laird, Daly, Raabe, and Moore) were all left on base.

Stat Lines:

Missouri Offense: 1 R | 2 H | 4 BB | 8 SO | 4 LOB

Jo’s stats: 6IP | 4 H | 3 ER | 1 BB | 2 SO | 23 BF | 79 pitches

Schu’s stats: 1 IP | 2 H | 5 BF | 20 pitches

Georgia Offense: 3 R | 6 H | 3 RBI | 1 BB | 2 SO | 4 LOB

Kerpics’ stats: 7 IP | 2 H | 1 ER | 4 BB | 8 SO | 26 BF | 125 pitches

Karen’s Players of the Game:

  • With her 11th homerun of the season, Brooke Wilmes is now in a tie for 8th in program history with 38. She also sits in a tie for third with 193 runs scored.
  • Kendyll Bailey extended her on-base streak to 18 games with her second inning single. She’s hit safely in 13 of 14 games.

What Coach had to say:

“I think overall, we gave ourselves an opportunity to be able to win, but we just didn’t take advantage of the mistakes.

The schedule isn’t going to get any easier from here on out (the Tigers have 11 games left), but Jenna Laird shared some words on what it would be important for the team to remember going forward, and Coach echoed similar sentiments:

“I think it’s really stay disciplined, stay focused, don’t get too ahead of yourself,” Jenna said. “Just no matter what we do. We’re going to be facing a good good opponent, whoever it is, and we just have to remember to stay focused. stay disciplined. Don’t just keep playing the game that we’ve been playing for our whole life.”

From Coach Anderson: “We’ve got to continue to grind. We’ve got to continue to build. You know we’ve still got a lot of weekends left. We have to carry some momentum. We’ve had some hurdles that we’re going through but it’s great to see and I really think it started yesterday (Friday) with the enthusiasm, the energy, and the adjustments that we’re making... They’re a confident group, they trust in their preparation, they trust what they’re doing. Sometimes the ball just need to fall their way...”

Keep supporting this team, y’all. They’re on the cusp; I can feel it.

M-I-Z.