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Moments that defined Mizzou Softball’s season

The season’s over. Let’s examine how we got here.

I suppose I’ve had enough time to decompress from what we’d all hoped would be another storybook season that I can take a look now at how we got here. That, and it’s peak OFFSEASON CONTENT SZN at this lovely site, so a perfect time for reflection.

In this timeline, we’ll reminisce about the good times and bad — that middle section, YIKES — and examine a few things that might have led to the Tigers’ rise and, sadly, ultimate undoing at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats in the Columbia Regional.

Note: In my designer’s mind, this would look different, but our platform doesn’t exactly allow for me to be too creative here, so forgive me.

We start at the beginning… of the end of last season.

May 30, 2021: Mizzou Loses in Super Regional Final

The 2021 season ends with a heartbreaking and un-Mizzou-like defeat at the hands of Odicci Alexander, Lauren Bernett (RIP), and the James Madison Dukes, 7-2. The game was marred with uncharacteristic errors and iffy pitching on 12 hits, 7 runs (5 earned) and 2 walks.

In an emotional post game press conference, Anderson, fighting back tears, said, “It’s tough. It’s real tough… It’s tough losing, it’s tough saying goodbye to seniors…. That’s what hurts me so much, is when your team does everything that you ask them to do…. You hurt,” Anderson said. “You feel for them.”

We know at this point Brooke Wilmes and Kim Wert already planned to stick around for another season, utilizing their Covid years. Cayla Kessinger, Game 2 superhero (she hit 2 of the 3 homers, forcing another game), announced her return just nine days later on June 8. The Tigers’ super-sized senior class continued to grow, as they joined RS-Sr starters Kendyll Bailey, Casidy Chaumont and Abby George on the 2022 squad.

June 24, 2021: Malveaux Departs, Hatti Returns

Associate Head Coach/Hitting Coach Chris Malveaux announced his departure for Tennessee. In the 2021 season, he led Mizzou hitters to an overall .320 BA | 382 R | 510 H | 88 2B | record-breaking 91 HR | 342 RBI | .552 SLG%, none of which would end up being matched during the 2022 season.

The same day as the Malveaux departure news, Hatti announced her return via twitter. This is potentially huge for the Tigers, as she was not only a force behind the plate (only 10 errors in her career), but she posted a .320 BA in 2021 to go along with 17 HR. In 2019-21, her BA was over .300, and slugged .500 as well.

June 28, 2021: Transue, Marino Promoted

In light of the coach defections, Coach Larissa Anderson announced the promotion of Sara Marino to associate head coach, and Michaela Transue to assistant/hitting coach.

Marino joined the Mizzou Softball staff as in 2019 season after serving as an assistant under Anderson at Hofstra from 2017-18. She was named the Division I Easton/NFCA Assistant Coach of the Year in October 2019 following her first season with the Tigers. Anderson touts her as her defensive guru, and says she played a major role in the Tigers’ defensive improvement, including setting a program record and ranking in the top ten nationally in fielding percentage (.979) in 2021.

Transue joined the Mizzou Softball program in 2019, as she went from GA to volunteer assistant the previous two seasons. She had worked primarily with the outfielders while also assisting with hitting. On the promotion, Anderson said, “It is important to me to reward loyalty and to mentor strong people in this profession. Michaela has paid her dues in working up the ladder since she has entered this profession, starting off as a graduate assistant, most recently as our volunteer assistant the past two seasons. She has been molded for this opportunity. She has a tremendous knowledge and passion for the game, and with her educational background in sports science and biomechanics, she adds another layer to our staff.”

September 24, 2021: Moore Accident

Hatti Moore was involved in a horrific car accident on I-70 as a semi hit the back of her car as she was stopped in traffic due to construction. She was released by the hospital four days later.

We would find out later in the season that her extensive injuries, including lacerations to her face and a concussion, kept her out of any softball-related activity until January, and is attributed to the slow start to her 2022 performance.

December 2021 - January 2022: More Goodbyes

In an emotional instagram post, Cayla shared her decision to retire from softball due to ongoing mental health struggles. She reminded people that, “It is okay to not be the best version of yourself and ask for help,” and “if you know someone who is struggling, show your support and be patient with them. Sometimes all people need is some kindness and a hug.” The 2020 Second Team All-American and would-be redshirt senior batted .327 while hitting 14 HR and 34 RBI for the Tigers in 2021.

Abby George announced her intention to stop playing softball on January 27, though she would remain with the team, cheering off the bench throughout the season. George batted .432 in 2021 in 88 ABs, the third best single-season average in program history among qualifying players. The missing offense of both Kessinger and George will be noticeable during the season to come.

February 25-27, 2022: Mary Nutter Classic

Out in sunny Cali for their second series of the season, Mizzou took on a murderer’s row of opponents in no. 9/11 Oregon (W), Texas Tech (W), SD State (W in extras), no. 5 Washington (W, 5 inn), and no. 6 UCLA (L).

Mizzou knocked off then-no. 5 Washington in a 10-0 pounding in five innings, and the softball community as a whole started to take notice. They scored seven runs off of UW ace Gabbie Plain, taking her out of the game after just 3.1 IP. They also scored 4 ER off of UCLA ace Megan Faraimo in 5.1 IP, showing that on their good days, the Tigers could hang with the best of the best.

March 5-7, 2022: Homerun Derby, The Perfect Game

A day after run-ruling both St. Thomas 13-0 in five innings and Bradley 10-1 in six innings, the Tigers hit the cover off the ball in the late game Saturday, winning 11-2 in five innings while launching SEVEN home runs by 7 DIFFERENT Tigers. The Tigers smashed four homers in the first inning alone. It was games like this that helped the Tigers hit their second most homeruns in a single season.

To wrap up a perfect Mizzou Tournament, the Tigers beat Bradley (10-9) 8-0 in 6 innings and Laurin Krings tossed the 12th perfect game in program history, striking out 12 batters. It was astonishing to watch, as she struck out six consecutive batters between the first and third innings, and 26 of the 40 batters she faced on the weekend.

The weekend was also the emergence of Jeff City freshman, Kara Daly, who homered in all four games in the Mizzou Tournament.

March 11-13, 2022: Tennessee Snowpocalypse

In former hitting coach Chris Malveaux’s return to CoMo, the Tigers were not only knocked out by winter weather, but also by the Lady Vols’ offense. After the weather canceled both the Friday and Saturday matchups, the March 18 game became a double header. I don’t know if it was annoyance with the weather or what, but Tennessee came out firing, winning 14-3 in six innings in Game 1, and 5-4 in Game 2. The bright spots? Kara Daly continued her HR barrage, and little used 1B Riley Frizell homered as well. Otherwise, it was bleak. Mark this series result for later, as it would become a key part of the Tigers’ revenge plan later on.

March 18-20, 2022: Mizzou Classic ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

After Mizzou beat Illinois earlier in the week in a double header in Champaign, they set their sights on a home tourney against an always good Northwestern and Stanford teams… and then there was Ball State. The pesky weather played a part in this series as well, and what was supposed to be a six-game set turned into a two-day double header. ICK. Gotta love the Midwest, huh?

That Saturday was the longest day ever, as both games — first against Stanford (L 7-4 in 8 innings), then the second game, against no. 14/12 Northwestern also went into extras. The softball gods really seemed to want the later game to end, as the lights actually went off at 10pm mid at-bat with the score tied. Too bad it signaled the Tigers’ demise, as they ended up losing 9-6 in 10 innings.

Which led to… the hangover, as Mizzou lost to Ball State (sigh) before picking themselves back up and beating Stanford to end the weekend on a high(er) note. Ugh.

March 25-27, 2022: Oh No in Oxford

This was just… bad, as the Tigers lost 5-1, 5-3, and 5-1 to Ole Miss and continued their downward slide into a time we’d all like to forget in the 2022 season. A slide that would very unfortunately continue until the end of the month.

Coach Anderson said later in the season that after this series, she and the team had a serious heart to heart, telling them they have to play for who they are TODAY and not who they were last season, and if it continued, they weren’t hosting a regional, let alone making it to the tournament.

In retrospect, maybe Ole Miss wasn’t that bad? They would go on to knock off Alabama in the Tuscaloosa Regional, after all…

March 30, 2022: Losers in Lawrence (that actually pains me to type)

As Mizzou continued their sharp downward plummet into “Oh No-Ville”, the Tigers traveled to Kansas and faced - and lost - to a team they had no business losing to. Laurin Krings had perhaps her worst start of the season, lasting only one inning and giving up four runs on two hits to go along with two walks, before Emma Nichols came in and allowed six runs in just 2.2 innings on seven hits. Schumacher closed out the game, allowing only one additional run in her 2.1 IP, but wow… it was bad.

Side Note: I should mention, it was C-O-L-D. Only 45 degrees, and we have found the Tigers to be largely successful when not in the arctic tundra, so that could have been one - of many - issues bothering them. Anderson mentioned later Krings’ inability (as well as Weber’s later on) to “feel” the ball was a big issue, and strongly advocated for the season to start later.

April 1, 2022: Wert Alert

In the bottom of the fifth against South Carolina on April 1, super senior Kim Wert crushed the 48th run of her career to take sole possession of the all-time Mizzou home run record. This is even more amazing considering that Wert had not been in a Tiger uniform for four years; she transferred from Hofstra after her freshman year.

The no. 24-25 ranked Tigers - somehow still ranked at this point - swept the weekend series, their first SEC sweep of the season on scores of 4-2, 7-3 and 2-1.

April 14-16, 2022: Georgia Uptick

While others didn’t recognize this series for what it was, I contend that this was the series when I thought, “Okay, Mizzou is getting back to themselves.” Yes, they only won 1-of-3, but something felt different to me.

As Larissa Anderson said (and I reported in my recap): 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.”

April 23-27, 2022: Sweeeeep in Lexington, Wilmes Record

Many others will say THIS was the series they’d start to believe in Missouri again, as the Tigers SWEPT no. 9/11 Kentucky IN Lexington 13-0 in 5 innings, 8-7, and 9-1 in 5 innings. Jordan Weber was the winning pitcher in all three games, becoming to first Tiger pitcher to complete this feat since Chelsea Thomas in 2013.

Against SLU on April 27, Brooke Wilmes becomes the the Tigers’ all-time extra base hits leader with a two-run shot against SLU. She would later become the all-time doubles leader against Alabama several weeks later.

April 29-May 1, 2022: Senior Send-Off

In their final regular season home series of the season, Mizzou was set to honor their eight seniors, including inaugural Gold Glove winner and future pro Casidy Chaumont (also SEC All-Defensive team), CoSida Academic All-American/First Team All-SEC Kim Wert, and Third Team NFCA All-Region/First Team All-SEC Brooke Wilmes, among many deserving others.

The A&M series did not disappoint, as the Tigers’ offense popped off all weekend. Game 1 was won in extras 7-5 against Aggies ace McKinzy Herzog (who had a sub-2 ERA coming in), with 10 hits, 4 home runs, 5 walks, and an 8-inning complete game effort by Jordan Weber. Game 2 was just as good, with 7 runs on 7 hits and two homers, to go with a complete game by Laurin Krings, and Game 3 featured an 8-run inning that lasted 45 minutes and an 11-6 victory on 7 hits, 7 RBI, 9 BB, and a pair of doubles.

That weekend marked the resurgence of Hatti Moore, who hit a hat(ti) trick on Friday, becoming the first player to hit three home runs in a single game since 2008. For someone who had struggled to get back on track much of the season after the accident, it was great to see. And great to have such an awesome weekend for all of the seniors who’d given their blood, sweat and tears to this program. And it was another SEC sweep.

May 6-8, 2022: The Alabama Error

To end the regular season, Mizzou headed to Tuscaloosa on an 8-game win streak to face SEC darlings Alabama. They opened up the series strong, stealing a win on a masterful Jordan Weber 8-inning complete game effort where she allowed just two runs (on two home runs), walked one, and struck out 7. Despite facing the otherworldly All-American Montana Fouts, who struck out 14 Tigers, she also allowed 7 hits and walked 4, including the winning run. After a 3-1 loss on Saturday in which the Tigers stranded 12(!) runners and only managed a single run on 8 hits, the series concluded with that game.

In a game that I fully believe would come back to bite Bama in the SEC Tourney, Alabama was gifted a home run on the worst call ever after Gold Glover (or she would be awarded later) Casidy Chaumont knocked a ball back into the park. The umpire appeared to anticipate the call and rule it a home run when it clearly wasn’t, and put the game out of reach for the Tigers.

May 11-14, 2022: SEC Surprise in the Swamp

I’m not sure who saw it coming, but Mizzou entered the SEC Tourney on a warpath, determined to take down anyone in their way. They were on a Revenge Tour of sorts, and it started with poor no. 17/20Auburn, who was on the losing end of the first game of the SEC Tourney in Gainesville. Mizzou had just 3 hits to go along with 4 runs, but also struck out 11 times and left 10 on base, leaving us to wonder, how did they win, exactly? On a Jo shutout, of course! She allowed only 4 hits and struck out 8.

Next up — muwahahahaha (evil laugh) — the Tigers had a chance to reverse the course of that asinine win just a week earlier when they took down no. 5/7 Alabama. Alabama, mind you, hadn’t lost their opening round SEC Tourney matchup since 1999! Up against the Montana Fouts, she showed some cracks, while Mizzou’s pitching continued to impress, shutting out ANOTHER opponent. In the 3-0 win, the Tigers scored all their runs in the 6th inning, while leaving 5 on. Laurin Krings’ shutout featured only 5 hits and 3 strikeouts.

Continuing the revenge tour was a date with no. 13/10 Tennessee, and it was time to take that coach out, as well as the team that crushed them (quite literally) earlier in the season. The pitching was again - chef’s kiss - perfection, as Jordan Weber shut out the Lady Vols 3-0 in the semis on 6 hits and 1 strikeout. The Tigers’ offense on this one came entirely off of solo home runs, which came in the 4th, 6th and 7th innings.

Finally, Missouri’s SEC Championship dreams were dashed, however, as they came face-to-face with a buzz saw (Arkansas). Playing in their first SEC title game since 2013, the Tigers were just no match for the no. 4/5 Hogs, and they lost 4-0, only managing 2 hits while stranding 2. On the pitching end, it was a weird day, as Krings lasted only a single inning (3 H and 1 ER), before being relieved by Megan Schumacher, who gave up 3 ER and 8 H in 3 innings of work.

Important takeaway: Despite the near-perfect pitching, the offense faced some issues. In four games, the Tigers scored only 7 total runs to go with a grand total of 14 hits, and they left 19 left on base… something to keep an eye on.

May 20-22, 2022: Columbia Regional Letdown

Aside from Game 1 of the Columbia Regional — Missouri’s hitting woes came back in full force. Despite the stellar pitching, the offense just couldn’t string together enough meaningful hits to do themselves any favors. After a 3-1 win and 10 hit barrage - to go with a dozen strikeouts by Krings - over Missouri State in the first game (while also leaving 9 on base, mind you), the Tigers only had 10 more hits in the remaining three games and left 14 on base in two losses to Arizona with one more win over Missouri State sandwiched in between.

The sudden hitting woes had come back to bite them, and ultimately end their season when facing a superior Arizona team who’d just gotten back on track at the perfect time (they’d eventually make it to the WCWS).

From my recap: In a season with so much potential, it came down to a disappointing end as the Missouri Tigers were shut out by the Arizona Wildcats for the second day in a row. Much like last year’s bittersweet ending, I write this recap with tears in my eyes, as it’s so sad it had to go this way. On one single pitch, Mizzou’s season was over. On one last groundout that just couldn’t make it into a gap, it’s done. In the blink of an eye, the end.

In the postgame, a teary-eyed Larissa Anderson said, with her star senior Kim Wert by her side, “The loss hurts but the team’s commitment to this program and Mizzou, you can’t replace that and there’s no score on the scoreboard that can tell you their commitment to this game.”

May 31, 2022: Transue, Norman Resign

Michaela Transue resigns from Mizzou staff, leaving a slot open to find a new hitting coach. It also becomes known that Maddie Norman will pursue paid employment, thereby leaving her volunteer pitching assistant coach position.

While many touted the Transue experiment as a failure, I don’t see it that way at all. Many members of the Tigers had career years at the plate in a number of categories, and Kara Daly, who we interviewed throughout the season, always threw out wonderful praise for the young coach (she’s only 26).

Well, we’ve reached the end of our timeline, friends. The season in 3,300-ish words. Thanks for coming along for the good, the bad, the not great, and the perfect. It certainly was an exciting season, and I am already counting the days to next season. We’ll have plenty of new faces to learn and a new hitting coach!