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Faced with elimination, Mizzou Softball falters one final time

The Tigers’ softball season ends at the hands of the California Golden Bears, who were just better than Missouri in their rematch

Mizzou vs. California in NCAA Norman Regional on Saturday, May 20
@MizzouSoftball, twitter

After being shut out earlier today 11-0 against two-time defending national champ Oklahoma, the Missouri Tigers took on the California Golden Bears again tonight with their season on the brink. They’d beaten them just a day ago (read the recap here); could they do it again? With Jordan Weber in the circle facing off against Anna Reimers, Missouri fans hoped the team had not only regrouped from the earlier loss, but also that we would see some vintage Jordan Weber. One of those things ended up being true.

Let’s recap.

After a 1-2-3 inning from Jordan Weber, Mizzou had chances. Oh, they had chances. After a Laird groundout to start the game, Alex Honnold was completely robbed of a home run as the centerfielder made a perfect jump to snatch the ball from over the wall. which would have made it 1-0 easy. After that, a Kara Daly walk and a Julia Crenshaw liner up the middle put two on, but a groundout ended the threat and instead gave Cal the chance to score first, which they did in the top of the inning.

After a sac bunt advanced the leadoff batter (on with a walk), Elon Butler, the All-Freshman/NFCA All-Pacific Region Team honoree, hit one up the middle and allowed Cal to take the lead 1-0. A double off the wall put two on before a heads-up play by the 3B Daly and the C Crenshahw resulted in a rundown for the second out. A ground out kept away any additional damage at bay for the time being, but Cal looked a little lighter on their feet, a little looser than Mizzou. The Bears appeared to be the ones having the party in the dugout.

The Tigers had a chance to get a run or two of their own in the bottom of the second, but again couldn’t convert. Megan Moll was hit by a pitch and Payton Jackson followed that up by legging out a single as the 1B couldn’t corral the ball, which put runners at the corners. Unfortunately, the duo was stranded, putting the LOB count at 4, after Maddie Snider’s extremely hard-hit liner went right at the 1B, who got a snazzy DP to end the inning. Two innings, two great plays by Cal to halt the Tigers’ momentum.

The third started much of the same way the second did for the Golden Bears, as another leadoff walk [pause for very dramatic, disgusted sigh] resulted in a 2-0 score, as a single (which ended up going to two) brought home the lead batter. Unfortunately, that wasn’t all. Things got worse though, as a low and outside pitch to PAC-12 wunderkind Makena Smith — it wasn’t a bad pitch! — was taken yard to make it 4-0.

In the bottom of the inning — stop me if you’ve heard this before — Mizzou threatened, but it ultimately went nowhere. Laird led off with a single and Honnold worked a walk to get two on, but the Bears’ defense, so [expletive] keen to flash the leather, was able to stop a potential rally. Daly worked a fantastic AB and would have surely brought home (at minimum) one run with her hit down the LF line, but the 3B (Smith) snatched it up and got the DP to end the inning, stranding two (six total).

The fourth began with a pitching change, as Lee’s Summit freshman Cierra Harrison took over in the circle for Weber, and after a quick first out, Cal got a runner aboard as the SS Laird couldn’t make a play on the ball; it wasn’t an error mind you, just a tough play. A wild pitch allowed the runner to take 2B, and a hard-hit ball up the middle made it 5-0, making the lead seem even more insurmountable.

But alas! Mizzou finally struck back, three times actually, in the bottom of the inning with back-to-back-to-back (yes, three) jacks by Maddie Gallagher- her first of the year - Megan Moll, and Payton Jackson - her second of the year. The latter of the three was off new pitcher (and earlier game starter), Haylei Archer.

Cal got one back in the fifth (because of course they did), as a leadoff grounder to RF and a bunt single put runners at the corners before a pitch got away from CC to easily make it 6-3. After back-to-back strikeouts, one of which was awarded because the batter was out of the box, Harrison came out after just 1.2 IP in favor of the birthday girl, Taylor Pannell, who ended the inning with a strikeout of her own. I thought Harrison was doing a fairly good job, especially with the last two Ks, but I liked Anderson’s sense of urgency to switch it up and show how much she trusts her young stars.

It wasn’t until the bottom of the inning that the Tigers finally went down 1-2-3, but Cal also couldn’t add to their lead in the top half of the sixth despite loading the bases. The Tigers had another chance in the bottom of the sixth after a Cal error, but Kayley Lenger (on for Riley Frizell) was caught in a rundown and Maddie Gallagher was thrown out trying to grab an extra bag, eliminating any offensive possibilities.

In the top of the seventh, Cal - again, unfortunately - showed they weren’t finished just yet as a towering leadoff homer was launched clear over the Oklahoma Sooners scoreboard in CF to make it 7-3. Pannell, for what it’s worth, was able to get out of the inning without any other blips, though.

How would the Tigers respond in what could be their final ABs of the season? With a fight, that’s for damn sure. That’s what I admire about this group. Not the most talented top to bottom, but man, do they FIGHT. Payton Jackson, 3-3 on the night, led off with a single before being thrown out at 2B as part of a fielders choice. With Maddie Snider on 1B, Jenna followed up with a single to the LF gap before both runners advanced on a pass ball. Just to make it all the more interesting, Archer walked Honnold (unintentionally) to load the bases for Daly, whose hit up the middle brought in two runs to make it 7-5, but not without consequence. Honnold was somehow caught in between 2B & 3B to get the second out, and Crenshaw grounded out to end the game.

Final Stats: Missouri 5 | California 7

Jenna Laird: 2-4 | R | 2 1B

Alex Honnold: 0-2 | 2 BB | 1 almost HR

Kara Daly: 1-3 | RBI | BB | 1B

Julia Crenshaw: 1-4 | 1B | GIDP

Maddie Gallagher: 1-3 | R | RBI | HR | FC

Megan Moll: 1-2 | R | RBI | HR | HBP | K

Payton Jackson: 3-3 | R | RBI | HR | 2 1B

Overall Offensive Stats: 5 R | 9 H | 4 RBI | 3 HR | 3 BB | 1 K | 1-7 RISP | 3 FC

Jordan Weber: Loss | 3 IP | 4 H | 4 ER | 3 BB | 2 K | HR | WP | 57 pitches

Cierra Harrison: 1.2 IP | 4 H | 2 ER | 2 K | 2 WP | 28 pitches

Taylor Pannell: 2.1 IP | 3 H | 1ER | 1 BB | 3 K | HR | 44 pitches

Overall Pitching Stats: 11 H | 7 ER | 4 BB | 7 K | 3 WP | 2 HR

The Tigers had chances in this one as they stranded - by my count, anyway - 8 runners in this game, and just weren’t able to capitalize. A lot of credit goes to the Golden Bears here, who came out ready to take the Tigers down and were seemingly there EVERY play to rob Mizzou of any semblance of consistency. What does Cal win? A game with Oklahoma! I for one am actually okay to avoid that and call it a day.

Much will be said about the Tigers’ season, and harsh criticisms are sure to rain down on this program, many unfoundedly so. So where do the Tigers go from here? I’ve heard Megan Moll may take a Covid year, but it is expected that the rest of the Tiger seniors— RF Payton Jackson, C Addie Lange, PR Hannah McGivern, as well as pitchers Jordan Weber, Megan Schumacher and Emma Nichols, are done.

This team is in desperate need of more production at the plate, and will surely cast a wide net into the transfer portal to snatch up some talent. Pitching-wise, I think they’re pretty set. Krings, Pannell, and Harrison all return, and they’ve got a helluva pitching class coming in, from my understanding.

Thanks so much for following along with my softball coverage this season.