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SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Missouri travels to StarkVegas in hopes of continuing positive momentum

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After a 5-1 home victory over Kansas City, the Tigers will face quite a test against a Mississippi State team who’s 19-5 at home this season

@MizzouSoftball | twitter

When we last saw the no. 24/25 Missouri Tigers, they were beating up on the Kansas City Roos (UMKC) on Wednesday in a 5-1 victory. Tigers ace Laurin Krings picked up her 12th victory of the year, striking out nine batters and allowing only two hits in her five innings of work. Casidy Chaumont found herself back in the middle of the order after returning to action this past weekend against South Carolina in the nine-hole. After a week + injury layoff (more on that in a bit), she was on fire Wednesday, adding two extra base hits, including a two run bomb in the third that shut down the Roos for good.

On the impact of having Chaumont back: “It’s huge. It’s huge for morale,” Anderson said. “She’s one of those lightning players that just sparks everybody. The diving catches really ignite the offense. I’m just so happy for her because she’s playing with a limitation. She’s in a lot of pain. She’s very limited. She’s wearing a shoulder harness that she has a hard time raising her arm above her head. So for her to continue to have that success really just gives so much more belief to the team on what you can overcome and the adversity that she’s facing as an athlete and what she’s still able to do.”

After Specs’ aforementioned five innings of awesomeness, Megan Schumacher was brought in in relief, and before things could take a possible bad turn — she allowed back-to-back singles in her second inning of work after being largely effective in her first — she was removed from the game. On the decision to remove her, Anderson said, “Schumacher throws hard enough that someone can get a hold of one and that’s the last thing I want in that situation.” Understandable! Emma Nichols was brought in to close things out, and just as she did over the weekend, she went three up, three down, inducing a nifty ground ball double play (Laird —> Bailey —> Frizell) before getting the final out on an infield fly to third.

When asked how Emma prepares for usage in higher pressure situations — hey, I asked this question!! — Anderson said this is the role she’s been playing all year long, putting her in with runners on base and getting a ground ball double play. A lot of their practices during the preseason focused on pitchers going live to the hitters. Anderson said, “I’d have a pitcher get a couple batters on and then immediately Nichols comes in so she plays that over and over again” and she’s prepared for it when it happens in a game.

Next up for the Tigers? A date in StarkVegas, where they will take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who aren’t ranked, but are receiving votes in the polls currently. In Wednesday’s postgame, Coach talked about the need to neutralize the bats of the high-powered Bulldogs offense, how they might need to pitch around a few of them, and how EPICLY important it will be to strike first and keep at it. From Anderson:

“They are a very potent offense. They’re very, very strong. They have a lot of depth and a lot of power, which we’re gonna have to be very careful in pitching around some batters. So more walks and putting some people on base because of how much power they have.”

“Not only Davidson (Mia), but they have a couple others that have the ability to hit it out. So that means they are never out of the ballgame. We have to be really, really strategic and have a real good game plan going in and how we’re going to attack their offense.”

Of note, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 94-25 in the first two innings, and are 21-1 on the season when leading after the second inning and 21-2 when scoring first.

Let’s hope the Tigers’ second visit to the state of Mississippi goes better than the last one, eh? This battle could do a lot in the way of Mizzou’s quest to get back into the middle part of the loaded SEC. Mississippi State stands in their way.

As always, M-I-Z!

WHEN: Friday, 4/8 @ 6pm, Saturday, 4/9 @2pm, Sunday, 4/10 @12pm

WHERE: Nusz Park, Starkville, Miss.

TV/STREAMING: SEC Network +

STATS: Live on StatBroadcast (just scroll down to the event)

HISTORY:

Missouri is 14-7 all-time against Mississippi State (since 1997). In the 2021 season, the Tigers faced the Bulldogs at home and swept the three-game series. MSU swept the previous one in 2019 in Starkville. In the last 10 games of the series, they are evenly matched 5-5.

Let’s check in on our hometown Tigers!

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

2022 RECORD: 23-13 (3-5 in SEC), 3-4 in away games

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 5th in SEC

RANKING: #25 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #24 (D1 Softball-updated), #22 (Softball America), #24 (USA Today/NFCA), #24 (current RPI)

LAST 4 GAMES: Kansas City (W 5-1) South Carolina (W 2-1, W 7-3, W 4-2), @ kU (L 11-7)

2022 TOP PERFORMERS:

  • Casidy Chaumont, OF: .420 BA / 1.206 OPS / 22 R / 29 H/ 6 2B / 1 3B / 5 HR / 19 RBI / .754 SLG% / .452 OB%
  • Jenna Laird, SS: .353 BA / .891 OPS / 26 R / 41 H [team high] / 7 2B / 2 3B / 1 HR / 13 RBI / .474 SLG% / .417 OB% / 18-20 SB
  • Kim Wert, DP: .353 BA / 1.096 OPS / 19 R / 36 H / 5 2B / 9 HR / 29 RBI / .667 SLG% / .429 OB%
  • Kendyll Bailey, 2B: .352 BA / 1.024 OPS / 11 R / 38 H / 4 2B / 8 HR / 23 RBI / .611 SLG% / .413 OB%
  • Alex Honnold, RF: .310 BA / .910 OPS / 16 R / 31H / 7 2B / 3 3B / 2 HR / 15 RBI/ .500 SLG% / .410 OB%
  • Laurin Krings, SP: 2.80 ERA / 1.17 WHIP / 102.2 IP / 12-5 record / 8 CG / 4 SHO / 87 H / 41 ER / 33 BB / 131 SO / 27 XBH / 12 HR / 8 WP / 6 HBP / .226 Opp BA
  • Jordan Weber, SP: 3.10 ERA / 1.20 WHIP / 70 IP / 6-3 / 3 CG / 1 SHO / 53 H / 31 ER / 31 BB / 66 SO / 17 XBH / 6 HR / 5 WP / 8 HBP / .213 Opp BA
  • Megan Schumacher, RP: 2.73 ERA / 1.41 WHIP / 41 IP / 4-2 record / 43 H / 16 ER / 15 BB / 25 SO / 7 XBH / 1 HR / 5 WP / 1 HBP / .262 Opp BA

NOTES:

  • Kendyll Bailey continues to be red hot, extending her consecutive on-base streak to a dozen games now and her hitting streak to eight games. The grad student has set career bests in hits, home runs, and RBI.
  • Casidy Chaumont has 10 multi-hit games despite missing eight games due to injury. She ranks second on the team with 22 runs scored.
  • Kim Wert is the reigning SEC Player of the Week for breaking Mizzou’s all-time home run record and for her performance against South Carolina. In the series, she batted .538 on the week with a double, home run, and four RBIs.
  • In their last SEC action, Mizzou swept South Carolina at home. From Coach Anderson, on the sweep: “It’s always tough to sweep in the SEC, and it’s great to get back on track. Great team effort.”

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

HailState.com

2021 RECORD: 35-25 (8-15 SEC)

2022 RECORD: 24-12 (5-4 in SEC, 19-5 home games)

LAST 5 GAMES: @ Southern Miss (L 0-3), @ #11 Tennessee (L 1-10 in 6 inn., W 8-3, L 1-9 in 5 inn.), Middle Tennessee (W 19-14)

RECORD VS RANKED TEAMS: 3-10 (one vs Florida, one @ Tenn, )

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 12th in SEC

RANKING: #30 (ESPN/USA Softball) / #28 (RPI)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

  • Mia Davidson, GS INF: .402 BA / 34 R / 37 H / 9 2B / 15 HR / 31 RBI / .989 SLG% / 23 BB / .570 OB%
  • Chloe Malau-ulu, Sr OF: .369 BA / 32 R / 41 H / 6 2B / 2 3B / 7 HR / 17 RBI / .649 SLG% / 15 BB / .444 OB%
  • Paige Cook, Jr INF: .355 BA / 24 R / 33 H / 4 2B / 6 HR / 30 RBI / .591 SLG% / 7 BB / .429 OB%
  • Riley Hull, Fr C/INF: .308 BA / 19 R / 28 H / 6 2B / 1 3B / 13 RBI / .396 SLG% / 12 BB / .393 OB%
  • Madisyn Kennedy, Jr xx: .283 BA / 17 R / 26 H / 6 2B / 5 HR / 22 RBI / .511 SLG% / 5 BB / .337 OB%
  • Kenley Hawk, Jr SP: 2.10 ERA / 10-2 record / 2 CG / 1 SHO / 63.1 IP / 47 H / 19 ER / 26 BB / 76 SO / 11 XBH / 3 HR / 9 WP / 11 HBP / .198 Opp BA
  • Annie Willis, Gr SP: 2.91 ERA / 3-3 record / 2 CG / 1 SHO / 55.1 IP / 51 H / 23 ER / 18 BB / 72 SO / 16 XBH / 8 HR / 2 WP / 7 HBP / .232 Opp BA
  • Aspen Wesley, Jr SP: 3.16 ERA / 5-5 record / 2 CG / 2 SHO / 51 IP / 43 H / 23 ER / 13 BB / 39 SO / 14 XBH / 7 HR / 0 WP / 7 HBP / .224 Opp BA
  • Matalasi Faapito, Jr RP: 2.03 ERA / 4-0 record / 1 SV / 31 IP / 28 H / 9 ER / 8 BB / 27 SO / 6 XBH / 4 HR / 2 WP / 1 HBP / .230 Opp BA

NOTES/ACCOLADES:

  • The Bulldogs are led by Mia Davidson, the all-time SEC career home run leader, who last year hit .311 with 11 doubles, 17 home runs, and 42 RBI. She’s hit more homeruns than anyone in Mizzou The grad student has all sorts of accolades attached to her name, including: 2021 NFCA Third Team All-South region, 2019 NFCA Third Team All-America, 2019 NFCA First Team All-South Region, 2019 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year (Top Ten). She’s played every infield position in her career at this point, but the majority of her games last year were at catcher.
  • Key Additions: Pitcher Matalasi Faapito transferred from New Mexico State, where she hoarded the honors: 2021 WAC Freshman of the Year, First Team All-WAC, NFCA/Schutt Sports Freshman of the Year finalist, NFCA First Team All-Pacific Region. At NM State, she hit .399 with 16 HR and threw 8 complete games. Junior infielder Shea Moreno transferred from Seminole State College (OK), where she was named the NJCAA National Player of the Year. She led the nation in BA (.673), OB% (.709) SLG% (1.280) and RBI (102). Moreno spent her freshman year at UCLA, but didn’t see the field, according to D1 Softball’s fall report. Bri Brower, a freshman, is a high-velocity pitcher from Illinois who can get batters out with both a rise ball and a really good curve. Riley Hull was a two-time Kentucky Gatorade POY and Johnny Bench award winner. Coach Ricketts called her Mia (Davidson)’s prodigy.
  • Key Losses: Fa Leilua and Carter Spexarth, who combined for 91 RBIs last season, both graduated and will need their offense replaced.
  • Pitching: The aforementioned Faapito has filled in in a relief role, but the staff also contains graduate senior Annie Willis, who spent the offseason working with Coach Josh Johnson in the weight room. Coach Ricketts calls junior Aspen Wesley a “primetime starter” and says she has a lot of fans who come out just to watch her pitch.
  • Offense: Joining Mia Davidson, mentioned earlier, is team captain Chloe Malau’ulu, the 2021 All-SEC Defensive Team honoree who batted .291 a year ago with 13 doubles and 19 RBIs batting lead-off. She’s emerged as a leader for this Bulldogs squad, according to Ricketts. “She has such a great presence about her and everyone responds to her. She works hard in the weight room and in practice. She does the right things on and off the field.” Shea Moreno is batting .407 in SEC play with five doubles, good enough for second in the conference.
  • MSU is averaging 1.43 homers a game, and is on pace for a school-record 78 HR season. If that happens, it will be the third time it’s happened under Ricketts’ tutelage. They are also hitting .376 with two outs in SEC play!!
  • Mississippi State started last season 0-13 in the SEC before turning it around, winning eight straight near the end of the season to make the NCAA Tournament. They ultimately lost to host Oklahoma State in the regional final, but this was 16th NCAA regional since 2000 and 8th berth in the last 9 tournament fields.
  • Head Coach Samantha Ricketts is entering her third season as head coach of the Bulldogs after taking over in July 2019. Prior to this, she was an assistant coach on the same staff from 2015-18 and associate head coach in 2018-19 until her promotion to head coach. Before joining Mississippi State, Ricketts was an assistant coach from 2012-14.

TEAM COMPARISONS:

Overall Stats as of April 7
I swear it’s getting better, y’all
SECSports.com
Mizzou isn’t last in anything [cheers]
SECSports.com

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.