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Mizzou downs Cal 5-1 in opening round of NCAA Tournament

In Missouri’s 17th straight appearance in the NCAA Tourney, Krings and the top of the Tiger order stole the show

Mizzou Softball comes together before their game vs. California in the Norman Regionals

With the wind blowing into Marita Hynes Field for Game 2 of the Norman Regional, one would think the offense might be a bit limited, but the Tigers and Bears — oh my — still showed off their power early on in this one. That is, before Missouri settled in with a small-ball approach and the Bears... well, their normally high-octane offense was shut down at the hands of ace Laurin Krings. If you read my preview, you’ll recall the Golden Bears had the top-rated offense in the PAC-12 this season and led the league with 67 home runs.

How did the game unfold? Let’s recap.

With Cal’s Sona Halajian (5.58 ERA in 59 IP) in the circle, the Tigers took advantage of her early struggles with a Jenna Laird leadoff single — she would be HUGE tonight — and an Alex Honnold bomb, her 14th of the season, to LF to make it 2-0.

The Golden Bears got one back in the bottom of the inning on a leadoff solo shot by the First Team All-Pacific Region, Tatum Anzaldo, to make it 2-1. After Sona shut down the Tigers with a 1-2-3 2nd inning, Krings allowed a baserunner in the bottom half despite the incredible effort by Jenna Laird and Riley Frizell — she did a split! The Bears, however, couldn’t capitalize.

The Tigers were able to add another run in the 3rd as Jenna’s great night at the plate continued. And after her stand-up double, Kara Daly hit an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-1.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Bears finally got another runner aboard with a double after Krings had retired 11 of her previous 12 batters. They got no further though, as a strikeout ended the inning. The Tigers also were held scoreless for the next few innings, and Cal utilized their typical pitch-by-committee approach to try and keep the Tigers at bay. Halajian — she’d take the eventual L while allowing 4 H and 3 ER — came out of the game with one out in the 5th in favor of Annabel Teperson, and she’d hang on until the 7th.

Speaking of the 7th, Missouri made their last ABs count, tacking on two more runs to extend their lead and make it 5-1. Since freshman Katie Chester’s AB was interrupted with Crenshaw’s caught stealing the inning before, she stepped back up to the plate and delivered with a single before fellow freshman Kaylee Lenger took over for her on the bases. Payton Jackson followed with a soft grounder and utilized that SEC speeeeed to put two on with no outs. After a Maddie Snider fly out on a very lengthy and great AB, Jenna Laird delivered AGAIN, as she mashed an RBI double down the RF line. Honnold’s infield hit made it 5-1, but a double steal gone awry got the second out at home. Daly then reached on an error by the SS, which led to another pitching change — this time Anna Reimers — but a flyout ended the threat.

Going into the bottom of the 7th with just three outs to go, Laurin Krings had faced only four batters over the minimum, and quickly induced a flyout to CF for the first out. A single by — you guessed it, an All-Pacific Region honoree (Kacey Zobac this time) — broke up her perfect stretch after Daly was unable to corral a hard-hit ball to 3B. But a strikeout - no. 3 of the evening - and one last flyout to CF ended it with a decisive Tigers’ first NCAA win.

There unfortunately was no postgame presser (that any Mizzou beat writers knew about, anyway) so I don’t have any additional notes from Coach, but from covering the team, I think I’d be able to guess what she’d say. She would be elated with Krings’ performance and how she moved in and out of the plate and had full usage of all of her pitches. She’d commend the top of the lineup, while likely lamenting the bottom half a bit (Chester and PJ did come through in the clutch in the 7th), and love the team’s plate discipline. And she’d stress the same thing she said earlier in the week on KTGR— the need to be perfect against Oklahoma, because as they showed Hofstra earlier today in the 11-0 run-rule victory, make a few mistakes and you will PAY handsomely.

The Stats

Jenna Laird: 4-4 | 2 R | RBI | 2 2B | CS

Alex Honnold: 1-4 | R | 3 RBI | HR

Kara Daly: 1-4 | RBI | 1 LOB

Julia Crenshaw: 1-3 | HBP | FC | CS

Offensive Stats: 5 R | 8 H | 5 RBI | 3 XBH | 2 K (1 looking) | HBP | 5 LOB | 2 CS | .267 BA | .176 w/ runners on | .250 RISP | .571 leadoff

Laurin Krings: 7IP CG | 4 H | ER | 3 K | 2 HBP | 2B | HR | 26 BF | 85 pitches | 13 FO | 4 GO

More Pitching Stats: .167 OppBA | .143 w/ 2 outs | .000 RISP | .143 leadoff

Next up: The Tigers will face the two-time defending National Champs and 51-1 Oklahoma Sooners at 2PM on ESPN+ Saturday. The winner of MU-OU moves on to the Regional Final on Sunday, while the loser plays the winner of Cal-Hofstra later Saturday night for chance to get back into the winner’s bracket and keep their season alive. Remember, this time of year features double elimination style brackets.