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Softball Tuesdays with The Beef and CPC

The Beef and CPC discuss the possible future of the Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness tournament, Bailey Erwin's departure and what that means for the future and look ahead to the Texas A&M series.

Mother Nature was a fickle mistress this past week, dooming the Missouri Breast Cancer Awareness Classic into cancellation. Though Mizzou tried to convince some of the other teams (as well as others, since evidently 11 schools were approached) to come up to Como to the cozy confines of Devine Pavillion, they were not successful and went without a game this weekend. Will that make it tough to come up with some questions for CPC? We shall see....

Q #1 - What were your thoughts on this tweet as it may pertain to future schedule?

CPC - I think Pete is just frustrated that SOMETHING couldn’t be arranged to move this tournament (or at least a couple of the teams) to Columbia. But being frustrated to the point of not competing in this event again...I don’t think that’s likely.

For starters, it’s a relatively cheap way for the team to spend the weekend. A trip to Cape Girardeau or Springfield is a lot less than a trip to Orlando or San Diego for another tournament. Actually, that’s probably the biggest reason we’ll do this tournament again. Other (minor) reasons: easy travel for fans; a chance to take the Mizzou brand on the road in-state and less class time missed for the student athletes.

For the Mizzou-centric, the argument is easy: Missouri should host the tournament every year because we have the facilities to continue play in inclement weather. But to those other schools, they likely would rather take their chances on weather and have the opportunity to host it every four or five years and for teams like UMKC, SLU & SEMO, a ranked Mizzou team might be the most-attended games they get to host.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out, both in terms of next years schedule and if Missouri decides to schedule a doubleheader or two later this season to make up the games lost. Losing these four games means we have an even 50 games scheduled and while there’s no minimum number of games required, it’d certainly be nice to gain some more experience before a very tough SEC tournament and the NCAA’s.

The Beef - To look at our schedule from a Mizzou-centric point of view, meaning I have no idea what other teams may have going on in those slots, here is what our options may be for adding some games during the season. I consider the idea that if we are already playing a double-header during the week, we are not going to want to add additional games in that same general mid-week.

  • We do play SMS for one game on April 3rd down in Springfield. Could have a game tacked on (ed. note: It's now a doubleheader)
  • No games scheduled between a road series at Alabama ending Sunday, 4/7 and a home series with Arkansas starting 4/12

That’s it...that’s the list. But from my vantage point, I could certainly see where a game or two gets added in there.

As for our participation going forward, I think you covered it nicely. There was no reason this should not have been moved to Como this past weekend, which makes you want to think we should host this every year, or at least be predetermined to be the rain site each year no matter who is hosting it. Perhaps that is the answer.

Would I be sad to see us get out of this tourney going forward? A little, because I like what you said about branding inside the state. But there is certainly no shortage of tournaments which would very likely be extremely receptive to a top-10 Mizzou team as a guest.

CPC - Thanks for looking at the schedule, I hadn’t done that yet. I can totally see a situation (especially if weather is a recurring theme this spring) where Missouri could schedule a doubleheader against Central Methodist (which they did 2 years ago) or Columbia College or something. I know we’ve discussed it before, but I think that as tough as the SEC is, you want to get as many “cupcake” games on the schedule as possible, if for no other reason than to bolster your resume to get a top-8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Q #2 - What was something you were hoping to see this past weekend that would have given you some additional confidence going into the rest of the year and the conference schedule?

CPC - Given the quality of the competition, I was really hoping to see some strong performances by players who aren’t getting a ton of playing time.

The Beef - To me, a weekend tourney as this would have been allow you to look macro vs. micro, and that can be a very tough balancing act in some ways. On one hand, you would not want to sit your hottest players for fear it takes them out of their groove. On another hand, you want to get the folks who you believe are going to be season-long key contributors who may not be playing well up to speed by having them gain some confidence. On a third hand, you also want to explore the depth on your bench to find out who may not only be a key player later in the season, but potentially in seasons to come. A lot to balance, but as a coach, I am sure you would rather have this three-headed task than planning weekend practices.

All that said, this weekend (for me) would have been about getting JJ Marston into a better groove hitting. It would have been about determining whether Sarah Moore, Kelsi Jones or Carli Rose would hold down the corner outfield positions, or if Coach E wanted to look at really putting Marston in right and Rose behind the plate to keep her hot bat in the lineup as he did against Fullerton, or if that was just a way to get Marston a little rest. It would have potentially been about further looking at if Angie Randazzo or Mackenzie Sykes is going to play third base when Hudson is either pitching or DP’ing. Figuring these things out on the fly against aTm’s Mel Dumezich is a much tougher task.

CPC - Oops...I didn’t mean to be terse in that answer, I meant to finish it before you saw it. Oh well. You actually said about what I was thinking. I really wanted to see some innings from Sarah Moore, Alyssa Cousins and Ashtin Stephens as none of them have really played much. I also would really like to see Rachel Hay behind the plate in these types of games. Or Carlie Rose, as you mentioned. And of course, some innings from any combination of pitchers not named Chelsea Thomas. If I were the manager, this past weekend would have been spent exploring the end of the bench and seeing who’s ready to step in when/if someone gets injured down the line.

Q #3 - Give us some potential short and long-term fall-out from the news that Bailey Erwin has left the program.

CPC - I’m quite shocked, to be honest. She says on Twitter that it’s for “personal reasons” and she “will keep those to myself”. Whatever those reasons were, must have been important enough to forego a year of eligibility on a team that was planning on using it’s backup pitching quite a bit this year.

Short term - This doesn’t hurt us too badly. Missouri can still lean on Nicole Hudson, Lindsey Muller and (yes, she has yet to step in the circle, but I’m still banging this drum) Kelsea Roth to spell Chelsea when needed. If you’d asked me a couple weeks ago, I’d have moaned about it pulling Hudson off of 3rd base, but she’s only started two games there this year, so that’s not a factor. Lindsey Muller just hasn’t played a whole lot this year (15 AB in 7 appearances, 5 as a starter) so that’s not a factor either. So, like I said...this doesn’t hurt us too badly.

Long term - This hurts from a leadership standpoint. Tori Finucane and Casey Stangel both come to campus this fall and from what I’ve been able to read, Finucane is an absolute beast. That being said, having two freshmen pitchers as your pitching rotation is not still want an upperclassman to lead things.

The Beef - The departure itself notwithstanding, it will be interesting to see how Coach E handles the departure next year. As cold and harsh as it may sound, this does open a scholarship. And while I am as excited as the next person about Finucaine and the supremely-named Casey Stangel, why not look to spend the opening on a JUCO pitcher? I realize you continue to bang the drum on Kelsea Roth, but if you are right, then she would be the only pitcher returning with collegiate pitching experience (such as it might be). I certainly do not know about the depth of JUCO pitching, but I would have to imagine we would look mighty inviting to someone looking for a 2-year home.

As for this season, I just don’t know how this works. SEC weekends are three games (as long as there is no weather or anything), I just do not see Thomas going three games every weekend. Is Hudson of caliber enough to supplant her in conference? I would say there are not enough pages in that book to make a determination, but time is not on our side. I am guessing we see Hudson if Thomas and Co. can get a win in one of the first two games. But if aTm gets the first two...oy....resting Thomas for May could go out the window and into the circle on Sunday.

CPC - Generally speaking, I seriously see Fri./Sun. starts for Thomas and Saturday starts for someone else. CT18 has not started (or played) in back-to-back games and only pitched in back-to-back days in Palm Springs...the first game being a 2 inning outing against Maryland. Against A&M (and against stiffer competition), I think we could see more Chelsea, but with less leash. If Missouri is up by 6 or 7 runs, in say, the 3rd inning, why keep her in the game? Let her rest and take your chances that Hudson/Muller/Roth can hang on to the lead.

As we turn our sights to the #5 Texas A&M Aggies, we see they have already played 23 games, sitting at 22-1 on the campaign. They have a number of wins over ranked teams, including 7-6 (8) over #19 UCLA, 3-1 and 1-0 against #23 UNC and 6-4 over #13 UL-L. Their lone loss came this past weekend down at the Citrus Classic against #14 Michigan who put up 9 runs in a 9-2 win.

Q #4 - With this series in CoMo, what does MU need to do this weekend for you to consider the weekend a success when next we talk?

CPC - A series win. A cop-out answer, I know, but with the pitching situation, you’d have to think Chelsea Thomas is going to pitch some serious innings this weekend and Hudson/Muller are going to have to step up right away. Mel Dumezich is their stud pitcher, going 15-0 with a 0.96 ERA in 94.2 innings pitched already this year, leading the SEC by 18.2 innings over 2nd place (for comparison, Thomas has only pitched 28.0 innings). Our power hitting numbers will likely take a hit...we have 3 players with a 1.000 slugging percentage or better and I would be shocked if any of them are still there Sunday night when the updated stats are released.

What will be most important and what I’ll be looking for is Missouri batters taking the pitch count deep and doing whatever possible to just get on base. Walks, hit by pitch, singles...I don’t care. Just get runners on, get them into scoring position and bring them home. I don’t have the Texas A&M numbers to know who’s started where and how much, but Taran Tyler and Amber Garza, listed as 3B and INF, respectively, have combined for 14 errors already this season. So an infield hit may not be as automatic of an out as it could be.

The Beef - Dumezich has been pretty amazing, except for when she has pitched against top 20 talent this year. In those games, she has given up 5 (3 earned) on 9 hits to #19 UCLA, 4 (3 earned) on 7 hits against #13 UL-L and 5 (4 earned) on 5 hits (in 5+) to #14 Michigan. I suppose those (limited) stats do also point to the errors of which you spoke, as aTm has given up 17 unearned runs of their 44 on the season. If the bats stay hot, the Tigers can still touch up Dumezich as they did last year when they scored 6 runs in less than 2 innings. If the bats go quiet, than Dumezich can 1 hit us over 8 innings. But 24 errors in the field say sometimes she does not get the help SHE needs to win the games. The Tigers take 2 out of 3.