I wasn’t going to write another recap, but these Tigers have inspired me to do extra work on Superbowl Sunday. That.was.magnificent.
Let’s recap the early morning matchup between two sets of undefeated Tigers.
With Laurin Krings (2-0) back in the circle looking to close out the NFCA Division I Classic on the highest of high notes, she got right to work, working out of an early jam due to a leadoff walk — she would have a few of these — and a single, with a strikeout and infield popout to end the inning.
For Clemson, Brooke McCubbin (2-0) got the start, and despite her record from the weekend, was not sharp in this one. Jenna Laird immediately teed off with a leadoff triple, and was brought home on an Alex Honnold single up the middle, making it 1-0.
Here’s the video of the triple. I LOVE this GameChanger app, y’all. Just makin’ clips for me.
B1: McCubbin gets the start for the purple & orange.— Karen S (@karensteger) February 11, 2024
Laird is aboard with a leadoff triple and Honnold hits it up the middle. The black & gold have an early lead!!!
But the black & gold Tigers weren’t finished. Julia Crenshaw smacked a single to left, scoring Honnold and making it 2-0 before swiping 2B to get in scoring position for Katie Chester, who also found a gap and singled to right center, bringing in another run and driving McCubbin swiftly out of the game. (That was a long, action-packed sentence.) In her place was Millie Thompson, who struck out Mya Dodge to end the inning, but the initial damage was done. These Tigers (of the black & gold variety) had come to fight and established an early 3-0 lead, of which they would never relinquish.
Back out in the circle for the 2nd inning, Krings made quick work of it, working around a leadoff walk and subsequent swiped bag with two popups and another strikeout, no. 2 on the day for the ace.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Mizzou struck again. After a strikeout to Chauntice Phillips, Maddie Gallagher smashed a line drive right back at Thompson, who crumbled to the ground. Luckily, she ended up being okay and finishing the inning. Gallagher, wisely taking advantage of the situation at hand, swiped 2B to get in scoring position for Laird, who singled to left, advancing the runner before swiping 2B herself for Honnold. And what do you know? Our girl delivered. While she grounded out to first, it was a very strategically placed hit, which allowed yet another Mizzou runner to score, making it 4-0 before a Madison Walker groundout ended the inning.
In the top of the 3rd, Krings went back to work, again masterfully working around two singles and runners at the corners, to strike out the last two batters of the inning to add to her tally (that’s four).
In the home-half, Clemson brought out another pitcher, Regan Spencer, who ultimately was successful in shutting down the black & gold. Kara Daly reached on a single and advanced to 2B on Crenshaw’s bunt attempt (it hit her arm, thus being called out), but a lineout and groundout kept Mizzou off the board for the first time all game.
The top of the 4th brought about another lead off walk and I thought we might see a pitching change, as freshman Marissa McCann had been warming up in the ‘pen, but Anderson stuck with her star after the mound visit and she was rewarded, immediately striking out Garcia, and inducing a flyout and ground out to end the inning.
In the bottom half, Clemson pitcher Spencer was dealing, getting two quick strikeouts from Phillips and Gallagher before Laird took first with a HBP. That Jenna-Alex dynamic duo was again in full force as Honnold singled to left to advance Laird to 3B, but a fielder’s choice took out Laird at 3B before any other runs could come in.
In the top of the 5th, with Mizzou still firmly in control, Krings ran into a little bit of trouble. She had the leadoff batter Clark in the hole 0-2 before hitting her with a pitch, and the reigning USA Softball Player of the Year, Valerie Cagle, was able to find a gap in center. Knowler flied out, but Specs walked Logoleo to load the bases for the first time today. A misplay by Daly — the ball bounced off her foot — resulted in one run scoring, but a fly out thankfully ended the threat, leaving the score at 4-1. The Tigers were stymied by Spencer in the bottom of the inning, their first 3 up, 3 down of the game.
Back out for the 6th at 104 pitches, Mizzou’s defense was fully on display. Phillips made a superb diving catch (video below), and while Laird couldn’t ultimately make a play on Oda’s bouncer just past the pitcher, she rebounded with an incredible double play to end the inning.
Here’s the DP. Remember, this was the top defensive team in the SEC a season ago.
T6: Krings back out with 104 pitches. WHAT A GRAB BY A SLIDING CHANNYP!! Laird makes a really nice grab but can’t make the play. BUT THAT’S FINE CUZ HER DP ENDS THE INNING. HELL YES, #MIZZOU @RockMNation pic.twitter.com/ABSrFSiJAU— Karen S (@karensteger) February 11, 2024
In the bottom of the 6th, Clemson brought in Valerie Cagle— she’s a two-way player and as good at pitching as she is batting. Mya Dodge led off with a single to center before being called out a 2B on a fielder’s choice from pinch-hitting freshman Stefania Abruscato. Abruscato showcased her heads-up base running, taking 2B on a wild pitch (it wasn’t that wild), and then 3B on passed ball. Unfortunately, she’d get no closer to home as a lineout and strikeout ended what would become Mizzou’s final AB.
Back out in the circle to close this out was Laurin Krings, who was AMPED UP and had thrown 113 pitches coming into the final frame. Working around a leadoff single to short, Specs then struck out the aforementioned USA-S POTY Cagle (no. 6 on the day), which elicited a valiant fist-pumping, before a groundout to 1B and a bloop fly to right ended the game.
[sound on for the video, please]
Let’s go, Specs!— Karen S (@karensteger) February 11, 2024
T7: Leadoff single on a bouncer to SS. KKKKKKrings is feeling it and that’s a nasty strikeout looking to USA-S POY Valerie Cagle. Lil’ blooper and there’s two away. A shallow fly out ends
LET’S GOOOOOOOOOOOO. 5-0 with two ranked wins! HUGEEEEEE pic.twitter.com/5FwXaJTlAU
What a game. What a series. What a performance by Krings. What a performance by the offense AND the defense. What a TEAM win. And, it must be said, as the announcers wouldn’t let us forget it, what a performance by a team that finished last in the SEC a season ago.
Today’s win marks Missouri’s first win over a top 5 team since they knocked off Alabama in the SEC Tournament in May 2022.
We’ll have more coverage from me and Brandon at the site in the coming days with some takeaways from the weekend, and we’ll get you set for next weekend’s trip to Denton, TX for the Tracy Beard College Classic. There, the Tigers will take on Texas A&M-Commerce and play two doubleheaders against South Dakota State and North Texas.