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SEC TOURNEY PREVIEW: Mizzou Takes on Auburn in the Swamp

No longer looking in the rear view, the no. 22/24 Tiger softball team is ready to do some damage in the postseason

2022 SEC Softball Tournament in Gainesville, Fla.
@MizzouSoftball | twitter

It’s here!

It’s SEC Tourney time, and the no. 24/22 Tigers (of Missouri) kick off their postseason today, facing the no. 17/20 Tigers (of Auburn). Whether or not Mizzou should actually have ended up being the no. 7 seed is up for debate [see Game 3 recap below, or... ya know... just search Mizzou Softball on the twitter], but this is where we are, and the black & gold Tigers are READY. Last year is last year and the Tiger softball team and fans alike MUST stop comparing this team to last year’s, regardless of its similar makeup.

On the media call Tuesday afternoon, 4th year Head Coach Larissa Anderson credited the team with figuring out on their own how to turn things around. She said they were “looking in the rear view mirror instead of paying attention to the team they are now.”

According to MUTigers.com, Mizzou is 4-7 all-time in the SEC Tournament. Last year, the Tigers went 1-1, defeating fifth-seeded LSU before falling to top-seeded Florida.

Here’s the bracket.

As for how last weekend went for our fair Tigers in Tuscaloosa, there’s really no need to waste time recapping the last three games again, but you can read all about them here! My Game 1 & Game 2 recap | Chris Blake’s Alabama Game 3 recap

D1 Softball had this to say about the Tigers in their SEC weekly wrap-up:

Missouri has a new chip to use for motivation. If we’ve learned anything about Mizzou over the last few years, it’s that the Tigers play better when they feel slighted or aggrieved. They will be coming in hot at the SEC tournament after their series-clinching 3-1 loss to Alabama came tinged in controversy. Ashley Prange’s go-ahead 3-run home run in the fourth inning wasn’t really a home run. Missouri left fielder Casidy Chaumont skied at the wall and got enough of her glove on the ball for it to bounce off the top of the wall and remain fair. But the umpires ruled the hit was a home run, and it was an unreviewable play by SEC replay rules. It was a tough call in real time for any umpire. That was little solace for Mizzou, which had to feel robbed after it should have been Chaumont credited with the robbing. And guess what? If the Tigers beat Auburn in their opening game of the SEC tournament on Wednesday, they would get a rematch with Alabama. Something tells me the home run will be mentioned a few times in Mizzou’s pregame meetings if that happens.

LFG! M-I-Z!

WHEN: Wednesday, 5/11 @ 1:30pm | Thursday, 5/12 @ 1:30pm (if they win)

WHERE: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium | Gainesville, Fla.

TV/STREAMING: SEC Network

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

HISTORY: Mizzou and Auburn’s history - as far as we know anyway- goes back to February 2003, and in that timespan, the Tigers (ours) lead the overall series over the Tigers (theirs) 10-9. They last faced off for a three-game set March 26-28, 2021 where Missouri took 2 of 3. They played one game at a neutral site in 2019 and lost, and swept two games in 2018.

(my Apple Pencil is outta juice, so no fancy graphics)

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

2022 RECORD: 33-19 (12-11 in SEC), 11-4 in neutral site

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 5th in SEC

RANKING: #22 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #24 (USA Today/NFCA), NR (D1 Softball), NR (Softball America), , #21 (current RPI)

LAST 6 GAMES: @ Alabama (W 3-2, 8 inn | L 3-1 | L 3-1), Texas A&M (W 7-5, 8 inn | W 7-2 | W 11-6)

2022 TOP PERFORMERS:

  • Jenna Laird, SS: .337 BA | .899 OPS | 42 R | 58 H | 9 2B | 2 3B | 5 HR | 19 RBI | .500 SLG% | .399 OB% | 21-24 SB
  • Kim Wert, DP: .333 BA | 1.139 OPS | 27 R | 48 H | 6 2B | 16 HR | 52 RBI | 24 BB | .708 SLG% | .432 OB%
  • Brooke Wilmes, OF: .329 BA | 1.057 OPS | 38 R | 53 H | 5 2B | 1 3B | 14 HR | 32 RBI | .634 SLG% | .423 OB%
  • Casidy Chaumont, OF: .328 BA | .951 OPS | 31 R | 40 H | 11 2B | 1 3B | 6 HR | 22 RBI | .582 SLG% | .369 OB%
  • Alex Honnold, OF: .311 BA | .870 OPS | 24 R | 46 H | 11 2B | 3 3B | 2 HR | 17 RBI | .466 SLG% | .404 OB% | 5-6 SB
  • Kendyll Bailey, 2B: .304 BA | .933 OPS | 16 R | 48 H | 7 2B | 11 HR | 31 RBI | .557 SLG% | .379 OB%
  • Jordan Weber, SP: 2.90 ERA | 1.11 WHIP | 13-6 | 9 CG | 2 SHO | 125.2 IP | 91 H | 55 R | 52 ER | 48 BB | 104 K | 36 XBH | 20 HR | .202 Opp BA
  • Laurin Krings, SP: 3.13 ERA | 1.30 WHIP | 13-8 | 10 CG | 4 SHO | 134.1 IP | 68 R | 60 ER | 50 BB | 159 K | 40 XBH | 18 HR | .241 Opp BA
  • Megan Schumacher, RP: 2.36 ERA | 1.52 WHIP | 6-2 | 59.1 IP | 64 H | 28 R | 20 ER | 26 BB | 41 K | 9 XBH | 1 HR | .269 Opp BA

NOTES:

  • Sophomore Jenna Laird is on a nine game hit streak, and has surpassed 100 hits in her short career. Brooke Wilmes, until Sunday, had been on a 12 game hit streak. Wilmes also broke the all-time doubles record over the weekend, with 57 career doubles, and holds the all-time extra base hit record as of the SLU game.
  • Mizzou led in all three games of the weekend series, so let’s hope they can keep up that early offense and start attacking the pitcher early. Mizzou is 26-14 in day games this season and 23-4 when they score in the first inning (29-8 when they score first).
  • After Casidy Chaumont’s rough go this weekend, she’s been supplanted atop the top performer boards by three other Tigers. She was 0-for-11 with 7 strikeouts. And while she was 2-for-3 on May 1 against A&M, she was 0-for-7 the previous two games. A badass Chaumont is what this team needs, and while she continues to show she’s one of the best fielders in the country [witness], her bat needs to come back around. With all that CC’s given to this team, it would be great to see a turnaround.
  • Other teams have apparently learned how to pitch to Kim Wert... And by that I mean, they don’t pitch to her. After Alabama ace Montana Fouts allowed a home run in the top of the first inning in Game 1, she was intentionally walked four times the rest of the series. Wert leads the Tigers with 16 HR and 51 RBI. In the last 10 games, she’s slashing .400/.571/1.280 with 7 HR and 21 runs scored.
  • While Megan Schumacher only saw work in one game over the weekend, she was very good in her 2.1 innings, only allowing a hit while striking out 2. Schu has been very good recently. If you recall, she was also stellar in her recent relief appearances against Texas A&M and SLU... (2.2 IP | 2 H | 5 K and 5 IP | 5 H | 1 ER | 2 K, respectively).
  • Jordan Weber has been terrific against the best competition, and holds a 1.18 ERA and two 8-inning complete game efforts against top 10 teams in 35.2 innings. She’s tossed two eight-inning complete game wins, which is great news for this tourney. (MUTigers.com)
  • Mizzou has hit 82 home runs so far this year, tied for the second best in program history (last year they hit 91). Four Tigers have reached double-digits: Kim Wert, Brooke Wilmes, Kara Daly, and Kendyll Bailey.
  • For Missouri’s pitchers to have success against Auburn, they’ll need to keep them off-balanced like Tennessee did by attacking both the inside and outside of the zone (AKA “the River”). For Missouri’s hitters to have success, they’ll need to exercise excellent plate discipline. In Auburn’s last series (against UT), four of the five runs came from either walks or hit batters reaching base. Furthermore, Auburn’s fielding percentage in SEC play hasn’t been that great (.949 compared to MU’s .974) so that may be another way they can manufacture some runs. One thing to keep in mind, Penta strikes out a lot of batters, so the whole “waiting for their pitch” thing is absolutely necessary.

Let’s take a look at Mizzou’s first (of many) postseason opponents, shall we?

(again, dead Pencil… sorry)

2021 RECORD: 52-9 (18-6 in SEC)

2022 RECORD: 39-14 (11-13 in SEC) 5-1 neutral site

LAST 6 GAMES: @Tennessee (L 3-1 | L 7-4 | L 5-2), Georgia (L 6-3 | W 4-3 | W 6-3)

PROJECTED CONFERENCE FINISH: 11th in SEC

RANKING: #20 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #17 (USA Today/NFCA), #19 (D1 Softball), #19 (Softball America), #28 (current RPI)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

  • Jr. Carlee McCondichie: .352 BA | .907 OPS | 29 R | 44 H | 12 XBH | 4 HR | 21 RBI | .528 SLG% | .379 OB%
  • So. Makayla Packer: .336 BA | 1.106 OPS | 43 R | 42 H | 18 XBH| 9 HR | 20 HR | .648 SLG% | .458 OB% | 18-21 SB
  • So. Sydney Cox: .333 BA | .995 OPS | 28 R | 40 H | 17 XBH | 5 HR | 26 RBI | .575 SLG% | 30 SO | .420 OB%
  • Fr. Nelia Peralta: .311 BA | 1.058 OPS | 24 R | 41 H | 25 XBH | 10 HR | 40 RBI | .659 SLG% | .399 OB%
  • Fr. Bri Ellis: .299 BA | 1.150 OPS | 30 R | 41 H | 27 XBH | 18 HR | 45 RBI | .766 SLG% | .384 OB%
  • Jr. Lindsey Garcia: .288 BA | .883 OPS | 29 R | 42 H | 19 XBH | 8 HR | 31 RBI | .548 SLG% | .335 OB% | 10-14 SB
  • So. Maddie Penta, SP: 1.79 ERA | 0.91 WHIP | 23-8 | 12 CG | 2 SHO | 176 IP | 117 H | 57 R | 45 ER | 44 BB | 247 K | 32 XBH | 15 HR | .183 Opp BA
  • So. Shelby Lowe, SP: 2.74 ERA | 1.03 WHIP | 9-3 | 4 CG | 3 SHO | 89.1 IP | 73 H | 42 R | 35 ER | 19 BB | 125 K | 25 XBH | 14 HR | .214 Opp BA
  • Jr. KK Dismukes, RP: 3.03 ERA | 1.52 WHIP | 6-3 | 1 CG | 62.1 IP | 76 H | 40 R | 27 ER | 19 BB | 53 K | 19 XBH | 8 HR | .299 Opp BA

NOTES:

  • Offense: Both sets of Tiger teams like to his the long ball and have launched 82 homers this season. This is the third most in a single season. Two Auburn freshmen — Nelia Peralta and Bri Ellis — have double-digit homers. Ellis has tied the team’s freshman home run record (18), and she’s four shy of the single season record. Bri was also recently named one of the 25 finalists for the 2022 Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year award.

This bat pop is a welcome sight for Auburn fans, as the orange & blue Tigers struggled offensively last season, ranking last in the SEC in just about every category. They have admirably replaced the production of Makenna Dowell, who transferred to Minnesota in the off-season. And while Auburn has struck out in SEC play more than Missouri, a number of their top players have under 20 K on the season (McCondichie, Ellis, Garcia).

  • Pitching: Maddie Penta is the Tigers’ undisputed ace, and has pitched almost double the innings of the rest of the staff. It is certain Mizzou will be facing Penta today, and while her overall numbers are awe-worthy (that 0.91 WHIP!) she has run into some difficulty recently, giving up 3 runs in 4 IP against UT, 5 runs (2 ER) in 6 IP against UT, and 5 runs in 1.1 IP against UGA in her last three outings. Regardless, Penta has 23 SEC victories in her career and ranks fifth nationally in total wins. She holds a 2.84 SEC ERA in 83.2 IP and leads the conference in strikeouts (90).

Shelby Lowe is the de facto no. 2 this season, after leading the Tigers last season with a 13-11 | 1.48 ERA | 179 SO | 28 BB in 165.2 IP.

  • Youngsters: Auburn has 17 (!!) freshmen and sophomores on their roster, some of whom (mentioned above) have really made their presence known on this year’s team.
  • These Tigers are prepared to face our Tigers, as HC Mickey Dean said, “Missouri has been on a great run as of late. We are going to have to come out aggressive at the plate early. Missouri has great power and speed at the plate, so we are going to need to work ahead in counts.”
  • Auburn’s 11 regular season SEC wins is their most since 2018, and this is the first time since 2019 they’ve topped 30 or more wins.
  • SEC Tourney History: Mizzou and Auburn have met up at the SEC Tourney before — in 2015 and 2019, respectively — and Auburn won them both. The Tigers hold a 21-25 record in the tournament, and won the whole thing in both 2015 and 2016.
  • Coaching: The Tigers are led by Mickey Dean, who is in his fifth season at Auburn and has a 123-73 record. Prior to taking over at Auburn, he was the head coach from 2013-16 at James Madison where he posted a 237-56 record. In his 14 years at the collegiate level, he’s coached 10 NCAA Tournament teams, one Super Regional team, and nine conference championships.

OVERALL TEAM COMPARISONS:

SEC-only stats as of May 10, 2022 (Alabama is marked with an arrow to monitor if Mizzou wins Weds PM)

Peering a little closer at this data, Mizzou and Auburn are pretty evenly matched in a variety of offensive categories, including: Runs, Hits, Slugging % , Walks, and Stolen Bases. Auburn does outpace the Tigers in SEC play in Doubles (32 vs 24) and RBI (103 vs 90). Mizzou, on the other hand, tops Auburn in Batting Average (.257 vs .242) and On-base Percentage (.344 vs .328).

On the pitching side of things, there are clearer differences between the two squads. Mizzou has allowed far less hits (142 vs 182) and has a better conference ERA (3.82 vs 4.0)— they’ve come so far [wipes tear]. The black & gold have also allowed fewer runs (94 vs 119) and 10 less ER, and Mizzou’s staff is holding opponents to a .241 BA, as opposed to Auburn’s .276.

I don’t know, guys. I feel good about this. The fun gets started at 1:30, so tune in.

“I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” ~Mia Hamm

NOTE: I will be at work during the game, so I’m not sure how much tweeting I’ll be doing from my own account @karensteger or @RockMNation, but you can follow me and hope for the best!