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NCAA REGIONAL PREVIEW: After some peaks and valleys, Mizzou Softball is on a quest to take care of unfinished business.

Mizzou, firm in their “one step at a time” approach, is not overlooking the MVC Conference Champs Missouri State on Friday

Mizzou Athletics

When we last checked in with our Missouri Tigers softball team, they lost a heartbreaker in the SEC Tournament Championship to SEC Pitcher of the Year, Chenise Delce, and her Arkansas Razorbacks (the No. 4 overall seed) 4-0 on Saturday after turning some heads with a RUN in the tourney earlier in the week. But even with the loss, the Tigers have been playing good softball as of late, knocking off ranked teams left and right. While they’ve had some trouble recently hitting elite pitching, they have been playing unquestionably awesome defense and had some truly inspiring pitching performances.

On their way to the SEC Championship title game, Missouri took out then-no. 17/20 Auburn, no. 5/7 Alabama, and no. 13/10 Tennessee on back-to-back-to-back days. And in the two weeks prior, they also took a game** from Alabama in Tuscaloosa and swept both Texas A&M at home and then-no. 9/12 Kentucky in Lexington. (**possibly two if umpires didn’t suck)

That’s quite a month for a team that in March, fans and the media alike were unsure of what exactly was happening with the Tigers. But the past is the past, y’all, and we are in the COLUMBIA REGIONAL, getting ready to host an in-state rival, a traditional powerhouse, and a cross-state rival.

From Coach Anderson’s press conference yesterday:

“I know that the NCAA selection committee always wants the best teams, the hottest teams, making the NCAA tournament so I knew when we’re on that run, and really the last month that we did everything we could do to be considered in the in the conversation, and obviously the proof’s in the pudding when we were one of the top 16 seeds... I’m just so proud of the run that we had and how we competed all the way down the stretch.

Win today. Then worry about the next opponent. Sounds like sound advice. Let’s dig in.

WHEN: Friday, 5/20 @ 1pm

WHERE: Mizzou Softball Stadium | Columbia, Mo.

TV/STREAMING: SEC Network / WatchESPN

STATS: Live on StatBroadcast

HISTORY: According to MO State’s records, they 15-38 all-time against the Tigers, including 3-14 in CoMo (Per missouristatebears.com). They last played in 2015, but the Bears declined to play the Tigers after that. (there’s a bit of bad history between the two teams, courtesy of their current head coach and former Mizzou coach, EE)

Personal Plug: In case you missed it, I gathered the Pressbox Crew to chat about everything Mizzou Softball: fave moments, predictions, walk up songs, interviews, and so much more. I can’t thank Chris Blake, Cole Lee, Brandon Haynes, Kayler Smith, and Rock M’s very own Lauren Rosenberg for the assist with this massive but super fun project. I hope you check it out.

M-I-Z!

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

2022 RECORD: 36-20 (12-11 in SEC)

RANKING: #16 (ESPN.com/USA Softball), #20 (USA Today/NFCA), #15 (Softball America), #18 (RPI)

2022 TOP PERFORMERS (as of May 16):

  • Jenna Laird, SS: .346 BA | .914 OPS | 43 R | 64 H | 11 2B | 2 3B | 5 HR | 20 RBI | .508 SLG% | .408 OB% | 22-25 SB
  • Kim Wert, DP: .318 BA | 1.110 OPS | 28 R | 49 H | 6 2B | 17 HR | 52 RBI | 26 BB | .688 SLG% | .422 OB%
  • Brooke Wilmes, OF: .312 BA | 1.001 OPS | 39 R | 54 H | 5 2B | 1 3B | 14 HR | 32 RBI | .595 SLG% | .406 OB%
  • Casidy Chaumont, OF: .303 BA | .886 OPS | 31 R | 40 H | 11 2B | 1 3B | 6 HR | 23 RBI | .538 SLG% | .348 OB%
  • Alex Honnold, OF: .297 BA | .833 OPS | 25 R | 47 H | 11 2B | 3 3B | 2 HR | 17 RBI | .443 SLG% | .390 OB%
  • Kendyll Bailey, 2B: .284 BA | .874 OPS | 16 R | 48 H | 7 2B | 11 HR | 32 RBI | .521 SLG% | .353 OB%
  • Kara Daly, 3B: .263 BA | .906 OPS | 23 R | 36 H | 2 2B | 12 HR | 25 RBI | .540 SLG% | .366 OB%
  • Jordan Weber, SP: 2.57 ERA | 1.08 WHIP | 15-6 | 11 CG | 4 SHO | 141.2 IP | 101 H | 55 R | 52 ER | 51 BB | 113 K | 36 XBH | 20 HR | .200 Opp BA
  • Laurin Krings, SP: 3.00 ERA | 1.28 WHIP | 14-9 | 11 CG | 5 SHO | 142.1 IP | 69 R | 61 ER | 50 BB | 162 K | 40 XBH | 18 HR | .242 Opp BA
  • Megan Schumacher, RP: 2.58 ERA | 1.59 WHIP | 6-2 | 62.1 IP | 72 H | 31 R | 23 ER | 27 BB | 41 K | 10 XBH | 1 HR | .286 Opp BA

NOTES:

  • Missouri is hosting a regional for the second season in a row, and 12th overall.
  • Awards SZN: The Tigers have been piling up the awards lately. Kim Wert and Brooke Wilmes were both awarded First Team All-SEC and NFCA Third Team All-Region. Jenna Laird was awarded Second Team All-SEC, NFCA Third Team All-Region, and named to the SEC All-Tournament team. Casidy Chaumont was named a member of the SEC All-Defensive Team, while Laurin Krings was named to the SEC All-Tournament team. And finally, Jordan Weber was named to the SEC All-Tournament team, as well as NFCA All-Region Second team.
  • Hatti Moore is putting it all back together at the right time. For the first time this season, we actually heard from Coach and Hatti on the extent of her injuries following her September accident. The extensive scarring and lacerations to her face kept her from being able to wear a helmet. The concussion kept her from being able to do anything softball-related until January.

“Getting her body more acclimated to seeing a ball coming at her at 70mph (was) going to take some time,” Anderson said. “She was patient and willing to continue to work, and as a coaching staff, we were willing to continue to put her out there because of the commitment and dedication that Hatti has to her own game.”

Her contributions to this team cannot be understated. Even when not producing at the plate, she has been the GO TO person in regards to the staff, and is large part of Jordan Weber’s success. Their bond, Coach said, is incredible. And she trusts Hatti implicitly.

  • Pitching: Mizzou shut out three of their four opponents in the SEC Tournament, all against ranked foes — Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee — before running into the Arkansas Razorbacks’ buzzsaw. Laurin Krings was taken out of the title game after just one inning, and we aren’t entirely sure why. Of note — this is incredible — after 16 scoreless innings in the SEC Tourney, Jo dropped her career postseason ERA to an astounding 0.60. If you can recall all the way back to last year’s Columbia Regional, she tossed a no hitter against Iowa State in the finale. According to MUTigers.com, the junior holds a 5-2 records in 8 appearances, striking out 40 in 47 IP and holding them to a measly .122 BA.

Of her pitchers, catcher Hatti Moore said, “They (the pitchers) all have small things that they prefer. Lauren does really well when she’s pumped up and excited, and Jordan has come out of her shell a little bit. She’s been real hype and fist bumping and I love to see that. It gets the rest of the team higher.”

  • Coach’s words: When asked about what’s ‘clicked’ for the pitchers and the offense, she said, “It’s maturity. It’s understanding what you need to do in order to be successful. It’s realizing your opponent is doing and how to counter-attack that. Nothing that can take the place of experience.”
  • Notable quotes: “Every team that is in this regional and within this tournament is here for a reason,” Mizzou outfielder Brooke Wilmes said on Thursday. “You can’t take anybody lightly and MO State won their conference tournament and they’re gonna come out and they’re gonna want the best from us. We know that no matter who we are playing, we got to come out and compete. No matter if it’s Arizona, Oklahoma, MO State, they’re all gonna want the best from us.”

Let’s take a look at the cross-state opponent, shall we?

2021 RECORD: 26-17 (16-6 in MVC)

2022 RECORD: 27-18 (18-7 in MVC), 8-8 away

RECORD VS RANKED TEAMS: 1-5 (W: #21 Arizona State | L: #12 Arizona State, #4 OK State, #10 Arkansas)

RANKING: #87 (current RPI)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

  • Daphne Plummer: .368 BA | .852 OPS | 32 R | 56 H | 9 XBH | 8 RBI | .447 SLG% | 12 K | .406 OB% | 28-32 SB
  • Alex Boze: .345 BA | 1.194 OPS | 18 R | 38 H | 20 XBH | 11 HR | 31 RBI | .727 SLG% | 21 BB | .467 OB%
  • Madison Hunsaker: .331 BA | .909 OPS | 14 R | 43 H | 15 XBH | 4 HR | 24 RBI | .508 SLG% | .401 OB%
  • Olivia Krehbiel: .282 BA | 1.047 OPS | 30 R | 33 H | 21 XBH | 10 HR | 29 RBI | .650 SLG% | 21 BB | .397 OB%
  • Steffany Dickerson, SP: 1.66 ERA | 21-7 | 15 CG | 6 SHO | 181 IP | 149 H | 54 R | 43 ER | 169 SO (career-high) | 39 XBH | 10 HR | .221 Opp BA
  • Madison Hunsaker, SP: 4.00 ERA | 1.63 WHIP | 5-4 | 3 CG | 70 IP | 71 H | 46 R | 40 ER | 43 BB | 57 SO | 17 XBH | 5 HR | .260 Opp BA

NOTES/ACCOLADES:

  • When You Last Saw Them: MSU was coming off of a Missouri Valley Conference tournament title after defeating Northern Iowa 10-4, securing them an automatic bid to the NCAAT. Madison Hunsaker’s 3-run shot in the fifth put the Bears up for good (she also drove in 4 R), and Steffany Dickerson’s 10 K pitching performance was enough to get the title. Payton Minnis, though having a down year at the plate, was instrumental in the victory as well, going 2-for-2 with a pair of runs scored.
  • Tourney History: This is Missouri State’s seventh overall NCAA Tournament appearance, but their first since 2011. The Bears just missed out making it last year after a one-run loss to UNI in the semifinals kept them from earning an auto-bid. Their SOS also likely kept them from the tourney last year, so Hesse scheduled a bit tougher this season, playing eight 2021 tourney teams (OK St, AZ State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Kennesaw State, Wichita St, UNI, SIU).
  • Awards SZN: Missouri State, who finished second in the conference standings, received their fair share of All-MVC honors, as Hunsaker, Dickerson and Plummer were given first team nods, while Krehbiel was given second team honors. Dickerson was also awarded the MVC’s Pitcher of the Year, while catcher Alex Bose was named to the all-defensive team. Both Steffany and Alex were also named NFCA All-Region Third Team.
  • Offense: In the preseason, D1Softball listed the Bears’ 3B Olivia Krehbiel (8), UTIL Daphne Plummer (10), and P/1B Madison Hunsaker (11) in their preseason MVC player rankings, expecting to have great seasons (they have) as these three, along with Tess Weakly, led MOSt in total bases a season ago. Krehbiel was also honored as a member of the All-MVC team last season for her contributions.

Plummer is nearing the top of the record books in MSU history, as she’s second all-time in hits (239) and has eclipsed 50 hits for the third time in her career. Also of note, she’s whip-smart off the field, she’s has a 4.0 GPA while pursuing her MBA, and already has a degree in Exercise Science.

Krehbiel was on fire at the end of the regular season, leading the Bears with a .423 BA and 1.115 SLG% in the last 10 games. She also has 9 XBH in this span and 4 home runs while driving in 11.

  • Pitching: Super seniors Steffany Dickerson and Madison Hunsaker came back, alongside reliever Gracie Johnston (1.87 ERA, 1.07 WHIP with 19 bullpen appearances). Dickerson set a career high in victories (21) this season, and now has 61 wins in her career. Her ERA ranks 30th nationally. Behind the plate is staple Alex Bose, who has a .996 FLD% this season and has made just one error.
  • Head Coach: The Bears are led by Holly Hesse, who is in her 34th season leading the Bears. With her 844 victories coming into the 2022 season, she is the second-winningest coach in MVC history. She was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. She does not particularly care for former Mizzou Softball head coach, Ehren Earleywine, as referenced in this article in ESPN.

OVERALL TEAM COMPARISONS:

Mizzou’s offensive firepower should put this one away pretty handily, if they can get those bats cracking. MO State’s ace, Steffany Dickerson, is no slouch though, as she ranked first in the MVC this season in ERA, strikeouts looking, and wins. Missouri State is 20-4 this season when allowing three runs or less. They are also good fielders, sitting 24th in the nation in fielding percentage (.974), and have only committed 33 errors.

And finally, a hype video. As Russell Crowe would say, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?”

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