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Fifth inning firepower fuels Black over Gold in softball scrimmage

Takeaways from Mizzou’s Black & Gold scrimmage on Saturday, February 3

Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

Welcome back, Tiger Softball fans! It’s been a long offseason, and we are READY to see some softball. Because of the unseasonably pleasant February temps, the team decided to move the game outdoors to Mizzou Softball Stadium (it was originally scheduled to be at the newly reno’ed Devine Pavilion).

I was a bit surprised at first at the change, but after thinking about what Mizzou head coach Larissa Anderson said on the Inside Mizzou Athletics podcast, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The team needs to practice OUTDOORS before they head to the Sunshine State this coming week to kick off the season. Here’s what LA had to say about it:

“One is fly balls. Seeing a fly ball high with a blue sky is a lot different outside for depth perception as it is indoors in artificial lighting... Hitters being able to track a ball and see it in natural lighting.... And our pitchers being able to play on actual dirt. It’s so different and the turf in Devine doesn’t similulate actual clay... The outside public perception doesn’t realize how hard the adjustment is, seeing a ball inside for months on end to all of a sudden having to compete against a team who just got out of the CWS in Utah, and that’s your first opponent. It’s a big adjustement for the pitchers and hitters to adjust their timing and adjust their eyes to being able to see a ball out in natural lighting.”


Freshman Danielle Blackstun (4 in black) bats during the Black & Gold scrimmagie on February 3, 2024
Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

Rosters:

  • Team Black

Pitchers: Marissa McCann (RHP, fr) | Cierra Harrison (RHP, so)** | Jayci Kruse (RHP, jr) | Taylor Pannell (LHP, so)

Offense: Maddie Gallagher (2B, sr) | Danielle Blackstun (OF, fr) | Stefania Abruscato (C, fr) | Katie Chester (1B, so) | Kara Daly (3B, jr) | Alex Honnold (OF, sr) | Kayley Lenger (UTIL, so)

Makeup of team: 3 x freshmen | 4 x sophomores | 2 x juniors | 2 x seniors

  • Team Gold:

Pitchers: Nathalie Touchet (RHP, fr) | Lilly Whitten (RHP, so) | Laurin Krings (RHP, sr)**

Offense: Madison Walker (2B, fr) | Jenna Laird (SS, sr) | Mya Dodge (OF, jr) | Clair Cahalan (OF, fr) | Julia Cresnhaw (C/INF, jr) | Adi Koller (INF, fr) | Chantice Phillips (OF, sr) | Abby Hay (1B, fr)

Makeup of team: 5 x freshmen | 1 x sophomores | 2 x juniors | 2 x seniors

We wondered a bit in the pressbox why one of the teams was so freshman-heavy, and the other was so... not, and the only thing I could think of was LA’s reference to the players not wanting to change team colors from year to year. So like, if Kara was on Team Black previously, she was likely adamant about remaining on Team Black. Anderson said the players have a real loyalty to “their color,” even talking about it long after they graduate.

The pitchers didn’t bat, and Julia Crenshaw, despite being on the gold team, played SS for the black team as they didn’t have enough position players. There also wasn’t a full batting rotation, so it wasn’t uncommon to see a team go thru more than once.

** indicate starting pitchers


Game Notes

  • The scoreboard didn’t work so it was kinda hard to keep track of what was happening. The 2nd-4th innings were kinda a blur, to be honest. We had a pretty chatty press box, so that might have had something to do with it (no complaints there; I hate when it’s completely silent).
  • Freshman Stefania Abruscato (Smithtown, NY) brought in the first run of the game in the first inning on a single off of Team Gold starter Laurin Krings, who had allowed a lead-off walk.
  • Team Gold tied up the game 1-1 in the bottom of the inning with some savvy baserunning that likely both angered and excited LA. Excited at their execution but annoyed that Team Black fell for the ploy. I didn’t write down the exact details, but it was wild.
  • After two innings in the circle, Team Black’s CC Harrison exited for the willowy freshman Marissa McCann (she’s 5’10), who pitched really well in her Tiger debut. At the bottom of the inning, Laurin Krings is replaced by freshman Nathalie Touchet (Aledo, TX).
Freshman Nathalie Touchet (14) pitches for Team Gold in the Black & Gold scrimmage on February 3, 2024
Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation
  • Freshman Danielle Blackstun (O’Fallon, MO) was the second freshman to get aboard with a hit in the fourth. Alex Honnold followed with a triple off the right-center wall. She scored on a hard-hit single by Maddie Gallagher, who then stole second. Two runs score, making it 3-1 before Kara Daly grounded out to short.
  • Fifth inning firepower: Touchet is back out in the circle and walks Abruscato, who is on base for the second time. After Katie Chester flies out to the infield, Kayley Lenger singles and Abruscato hustles to third. A groundout sends Lenger to 2B before Honnold walks to load the bases. Gallagher shows off great plate discipline and walks home a run, making it 4-1. Daly then hits a BIRTHDAY BOMB, a grand slam, making it 8-1. Abruscato is back at the plate and walks again (her third time on base for those keeping track), before Chester cranks a two-run shot! Touchet is knocked out of the game and in her place is Lilly Whitten, a sophomore right-hander who was not used last year (did she redshirt?). Abby Hay makes a diving grab in foul territory for the third out, but the damage is done. It’s 10-1, Team Black.
Freshman Abby Hay (Rock Bridge HS) lays out to catch a foul ball along the first base side during the Black & Gold scrimmage on Feb. 3
Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation
  • Taylor Pannell takes over in the circle for Team Black in the fifth inning, and promptly pitches like she did last season, with a 1-2-3 inning.
  • Lilly Whitten is back in the circle in the top of the 6th and gets two quick outs before a defensive miscue with 2B & RF (I think it was Walker & Cahalan but could be wrong) allows a runner. Daly strikes out to end the inning.
  • In the bottom of the 6th, Team Gold starts to make a comeback as Julia Crenshaw smashes a solo shot over the left-center wall to lead off the inning. Chantice Phillips follows up with a walk before freshman Adi Koller flies out to shallow. Abruscato, making an early case for Mizzou’s freshman of the year, picked off Phillips at second. Jenna Laird flashes the leather to get the third out. It’s now 10-2.
Chantice Phillips (28 in gold) attempts to avert the tag by Maddie Gallagher (1 in black) at 2B the Black & Gold scrimmage on February 3, 2024
Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation
  • There’s another defensive miscue in the top of the 7th as the center fielder (I think it was Dodge?) misplayed a sliding catch.
  • Junior Jayci Kruse is out to close the game for Team Black. Laird gets aboard with a standup double. Walker gets on due to an error by Kara Daly, doesn’t get her glove down and it gets by her. A sacrifice by Hay to the pitcher brings in Laird, and it’s 10-3. With two out, Phillips walks before Adi Koller is hit by a pitch to load the bases. Another freshman, Claire Cahalan, strategically hits it up the middle and it’s 10-4 with the bases still loaded. Laird is back up again, and brings in two, making it 10-6. Cahalan is thrown out at third trying to take an extra bag and the game is over.

Thoughts

  • I was impressed with the freshmen overall. There are a lot of them on this Tiger team, and each seemed to do some things well. I can see why LA is excited about Marissa McCann. She impressed in her Missouri debut, and I think she will be a key piece this season. Abby Hay is a good fielder, and I think her baseball skills — she played baseball for Rock Bridge HS til 10th grade before making the change entirely to softball — were evident. She is fearless and fun fact, wears an actually baseball cap instead of the visors everyone else wears. Claire Cahalan might’ve made the final out of the game, but I liked her aggressive baserunning, and her hit up the middle in the high-pressure situation was great. Danielle Blackstun also had a hit, but I was most impressed with Stefania Abruscato, who was great behind the plate, throwing out speedy Channy P at 2B, while also getting on base every at-bat (at least three of them, anyway).
Freshman Claire Cahalan (8) makes contact with a pitch in the Black & Gold scrimmage on Feb. 3
Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation
  • The offense! I know it was just a scrimmage, but it was so, so nice to see some hard-hit balls. Honnold had a triple, Laird had several really hard hit extra-base hits, and then there were the homers by Chester, Crenshaw and Daly.
  • Maddie Gallagher had a really nice game, some hard hit balls, good baserunning, good defense…
  • Mizzou was the best defensive team in the SEC last season, so LA for sure will want to get all these defensive miscues cleaned up for the regular season.
  • I don’t really have any thoughts on the pitching yet, as I didn’t really pay attention to it; sorry. I know CC & Laurin had leadoff walks, but that’s all I recall.
  • We were supposed to talk to LA after the game, but it ran a bit over and due to the banquet timing right afterward, her chat is being rescheduled for Tuesday. I’ll have more then!
Team Gold, including Kara Daly (19), Jenna Laird (3), Adi Koller (16) and Madison Walker (2) celebrate after a good defensive inning on February 3, 2024.
Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation

Other pertinent notes from LA from her visit on the Inside Mizzou Athletics podcast:

On the new use of Devine Pavilion now that Football has moved over to the new facility

“It gives up an opportunity to use the facility that we can use 24 hours, 7 days a week, and we don’t have to worry about sharing it with Football. The biggest thing was getting the hash marks off the field. We now have a cutout brown turf infield with basepaths and a batters box and pitching lanes. The greatest thing is that we have plug bases, so the bases are permanently structured in that facility, which makes it much safer for our athletes. It’s almost close to what our field is actually like except for the ceiling... We can conduct a lot more efficient practices.”

On the slate of competition they’ll face starting next weekend at the NFCA Classic (in Clearwater, FL) and at Mary Nutter (in Cathedral City, CA):

“We know the SEC is toughest competition in the country, and getting to play in some of these high-caliber, preseason tournaments is going to prepare us for that grind in our conference schedule. It attracts the top teams in each Power 5 conference.... Preparing for this sets up a postseason reason {they play a 10-game SEC road trip to end the season, with UofSC and then the SEC Tournament].

On the KPI, and how that factored into Mizzou’s road-heavy schedule:

“The NCAA selection committee is now looking at KPI, so being able to get more points for your road wins vs. your home wins really goes into the factor to get us to host [Regionals]...A lot of other sports have been using it [KPI]. Volleyball took it into account this year. You get points for wins and losses but you don’t get as many points for a home win as a road win.”

“With us playing the majority of games on the road the first month of our season [Mizzou’s first home game is the SEC opener March 8], having some of these quality wins on the road is going to have a lot more value than if they were played in our stadium.”

Catcher Julia Crenshaw (11 hugs senior pitcher Laurin Krings (24), who got the start for Team Gold in the circle on February 3, 2024
Cal Tobias/Rock M Nation