It shouldn’t have been this exciting, you guys. At least not in the way I wanted, anyway. The Mizzou Softball home opener, occurring on an unseasonably cold, gloomy and wet early-March afternoon, had all the makings of a pretty unfairly matched and unexciting game at first. I thought to myself, this is just what you want as a final tune-up before SEC play starts. Maybe bring in some pinch hitters who don’t get to play a ton, give your relievers some innings, etc. So when Mizzou scored three runs in the bottom of the first on Chantice Phillips’ 3-run BOMB to center — seriously, that thing FLEW — to put the Tigers out in front, and then when they tacked on two more in the second and fourth innings with some savvy baserunning to make it 5-0, I thought to myself, “Ok, this is going to be over early.”
[insert nervous laughter]
In the postgame, Coach Anderson lauded her team’s early performance, saying she thought they started out really strong before the pitching change in the third inning, and when Danielson came in, it kept them off balance for a bit with the change up. “We got caught in between and when that change up floats in there, sometimes you try to do a little bit too much with it, and now you don’t see through the ball the way you’re supposed to.”
Also during the first five innings, with freshman Cierra Harrison in the circle for her first home start, Mizzou had everything working for them on offense and defense. CC didn’t allow a HIT OR BASERUNNER through four. In the fifth, however, there was a slight blip. First, a walk. And then a bloop single. A subsequent RBI double resulted in Kansas City’s first run of the day, and while HCLA came out for a mound visit, she left her young star in. And handle it CC did, getting out of a jam on a popup to short and a groundout to third. When Harrison left the game after that inning, she had preserved a great win for her team, throwing only 72 pitches and striking out four to only one walk and two hits.
When asked in the postgame about CC’s performance, Anderson said, “I thought Harrison threw a perfect game into the fifth. That’s awesome (because) we’re gonna have to rely on her and she kept them off balance and threw to both sides of the plate.” She continued. “I probably could have left her in. She was fresh and she had plenty to go; I just wanted to get some other people some action.” Yeah... about that...
The Tigers added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the inning after a Payton Jackson walk and Megan Moll single got runners aboard for a two-run single up the middle by Jenna Laird, making it a 7-1 game. Then came the sixth. With senior Megan Schumacher in the circle, the Roos really battled, unleashing an onslaught of hitting. It was truly an off-kilter performance for Schuey, who shined over the weekend. A leadoff single was followed by a walk, and then three consecutive singles made it 7-4 very quickly. Schumacher then exited the game before ever even recording an out.
“Schumacher was very uncharacteristic,” Coach Anderson said. “She’s been throwing really strong all season long... Could be a little nerves, could be a little jittery. She’s a senior and excited to be out there. Might have overthrown a little bit.” (She said they’ll check the film and figure out what went wrong.)
Schuey was replaced in the circle by freshman left-hander Taylor Pannell, who entered with two aboard. She allowed an RBI single, making it 7-5, but was able to dispose of the Roos efficiently after that on a strikeout, groundout to Daly, and another strikeout.
“How about Taylor Parnell coming in with runners on base?”, Anderson remarked. “Being able to hunt them down. That was really awesome to see because we’re going to rely on her in that closing role.”
Perhaps noticing the game was getting a bit too close for comfort, Mizzou tacked on their own four-spot in the bottom of the inning, as Daly singled to right field and advanced on a wild pitch. ChannyP, the bona fide star of the day, then got her fourth RBI on the day with a single, making it 8-5. But the Tigers weren’t done, as PJ tripled to right field, scoring Phillips, and then she herself scored on a passed ball that went right through the catcher’s legs.
A Moll double — she quietly had a great game — got another runner in scoring position, and she was able to take third on a wild pitch before ultimately scoring on a fielding error by the second baseman. This made it 11-5 with just a half-inning left to play.
“I was really impressed after we gave up that four spot that we came back immediately and hit the ball hard,” Anderson said. “I would have liked to see it earlier, but it’s better to see it — you know — after the opposing team does score some runs.” She continued. “All the way through (our) lineup, you can tell that they have confidence. They know how to be able to manufacture some runs. We have a lot of speed to be able to put some numbers in motion, but it really takes that leadoff batter [like Daly in the case of the 6th] to hit the ball hard. That’s why they say hitting is contagious.”
When asked about her plate performance in the postgame, Chantice Phillips said that the latter RBI hit was a result of continuously telling herself, “I couldn’t be beat three times in a row. That’s pretty much what I had to say to myself. I stopped and froze on a couple change ups. So I took advantage of that last at-bat I had.”
With a win just a few outs away, an error by Julia Crenshaw allowed the leadoff runner to get on base in the top of the seventh. However, a gorgeous double play by Daly and Frizzy, which followed a key strikeout, ended the game emphatically.
In the postgame, Coach Anderson talked about how great it was to be home (even if it’s cold). “It’s great to play in front of our home crowd and great to get a win in front of our home crowd. And it kinda sets the tone for the rest of the season.”
When asked about what the team can take away from this game into the weekend matchup against SEC opponent Kentucky, HCLA said, “Offensively, I’d like to be a little more aggressive. One thing we talked about in the locker room is that we took 21 strikes. We need to be a little bit more aggressive so we’re not hitting behind in the count. When you’re not worried about them (a pitcher) blowing the ball by you, can you go a little deeper. So being a little bit more selective, aggressive on pitches.”
- Jenna Laird: 1-2 with 2 runs scored, 2 RBI, 3 walks, 2 stolen bases, and a caught stealing
- Julia Crenshaw: 2-5 with a run scored, RBI, strikeout, and an error
- Kara Daly: 1-3 with a run scored, RBI, and 2 strikeouts
- Chantice Phillips: 2-4 with 2 runs scored, 4 RBI, a home run, and 2 strikeouts
- Payton Jackson: 2-2 with 2 runs scored, an RBI, walk, triple, and a hit by pitch
- Megan Moll: 2-3 with 2 runs scored, a walk, and a double
OVERALL: 11 runs | 11 hits | 9 RBI | 1 2B | 1 3B | 1 HR | 7 BB | 6 SO | 1 HBP | 9 LOB | 4 SB | 1 Error
- Cierra Harrison: 5 IP with 2 hits, 1 earned run, a double, walk, and 4 strikeouts in 72 pitches
- Megan Schumacher: 0 IP with 4 hits, 4 earned runs, and a walk with just 17 pitches (5 BF)
- Taylor Pannell: 2 IP with 2 hits, 0 earned runs, and 3 strikeouts in 28 pitches (8 BF)