Alright Switz, the preseason USA Today/NFCA.org rankings are out and our Tigers have landed in 17th place. So, armed with only this piece of somewhat useless information, how about we get to predicting some games? What could go wrong? J
Mizzou will head to Clermont, Fla. (which is straight west of Orlando in case you were wondering) to take part in the Dot Richardson Invitational. They will have two games scheduled for 2/13, two more for Valentine’s Day, with the finale coming on 2/15. Right now, the weather looks like it will cooperate all three days, so that is nice to see. In terms of final RPI Rankings and Preseason poll rankings, here is where our five opponents rate:
- Louisville – 48th RPI/Receiving Votes (36th)
- Chattanooga – 72nd RPI/NR
- South Dakota St – 258th RPI/NR
- Cleveland St – 189th RPI/NR
- UCF – 28th RPI/Receiving Votes (29th)
So…how do you see the pitching rotation setting up for this weekend? Do you go with Tori Finucane against L’ville, then rest her and hope that Paige Lowary and company can get through the next three games to get back to Tori against UCF to close it out? Or are you exposing Paige to some higher-end competition because of what else you have coming in February (plus SEC season)?
That's quite the varied set of opponents for the Tigers opening games. I buy into your scenario for the rotation. Here are my thoughts:
Tori Finucane will lead off the season against Louisville, and Paige Lowary will take the circle against Chattanooga - an opponent that should give her a taste of big-time college softball. On Valentine's, Cheyenne Baxter will be put in against SDSU, and Lowary will get her second start against Cleveland St. Finucane will kept available in case of struggles in either (or both) games, but she will mostly be relied on to take care of the dangerous UCF on 2/15.
There will be plenty of opportunities in the non-con schedule to get Lowary in front of some quality bats. So I don't think there's a real great reason to risk losing opening weekend games just to get her that experience now. I think Coach E will want to see what he has in her - against legit competition - prior to establishing his regular rotation later in the year.
Honestly, looking at the caliber and schedule of opponent on that first weekend, I really am getting excited for how the season could start. When you play in the SEC, RPI is rarely ever a concern, and Coach E has never really shied away from competition in the OOC as it is. This one has a couple of good games, but allows him some chances to do the lineup tinkering we all know he will do and still likely come out ahead on the overall result.
So this is something I was thinking about the other day, and I don’t know if it is worth anything, but it could be an interesting discussion point. In following the team on Social Media as a number of us do, you cannot help but notice how much the team has been outside for practice. How much value can I associate with their chance to be outside for a good bit of their winter prep in your estimation?
It's pretty easy to get enamored with the idea that outdoor practice ability means something in college softball. The vast majority of powerhouse teams in the sport are located in areas where outdoor practice is the norm - even in winter. So I'm inclined to think that the extra work on an actual field can only be a good thing. The value I would put on it is particularly in fielding, which is an area we are very concerned about this season. Perhaps the extra work will mean a more steady defensive effort.
I share your excitement about the beginning of the season, which has been enhanced by the details about the new softball complex to be built to the east of Hearnes. I love that it's going to be so prominently located, and hope that our already impressive attendance and attention to the program will continue to grow. Am I reading too much into things to suggest that the placement of the new stadium is indicative of the AD's dedication to softball?
I don’t think you are reading too much into it at all. That stadium is going to have a very upfront placement along that side of the road, especially once Hearnes Center comes down and a replacement goes up (which certainly wont be nearly as big as Hearnes). PLENTY of good parking (obviously) , but parking really is an issue at times back at University Field. SEC Tournament in softball is a big deal and the sport itself continues to grow in exposure thanks to ESPN and now SECN. Hell, just having it plain site (rather than absolutely hidden away from the line of site of any major road in Columbia) will likely help with attendance and interest. And if Coach E has been as close as we have been the facilities we have had, I cant see how this wont potentially help us bring in the final pieces to that Championship puzzle. Exciting to think about, but I do think the plans by the AD are a very fair representation of the program and the growth they have undergone since Coach E arrived.
Alright, with just a week to go before the season finally gets going, any last-second thoughts coming from practice reports or the Black and Gold scrimmage held this past Sunday?
It doesn't seem there is too much we can add based on the Black and Gold game, since by the published accounts, the Black team appeared to be the starters, and the Gold the backups. The pitching held up well from top to bottom and Emily Crane, Sami Fagan, and Kelsea Roth were solid. One notable lineup move is that transfer Anna Reed played on the Gold squad, which would seem to indicate that she is not in line for a great deal of playing time this season, barring injury (which jibes with other reports and interviews from the last month). All in all, it's pretty much time to see what this team can do in real competition.
But there was some practice-based injury news out last week, as well, Beef. How does that look to impact the early season look of the Tigers?
To your points, I loved seeing the offensive production from those three, but especially from Roth and Fagan. With Fagan, I think some of the defensive positional changes she went through last season may have hurt her offense, so it is good to see her with four hits. With Roth, her bat getting back to 2013 levels would really propel this team to where I could really start to agree with Coach E when he says, "It’s hard to gauge because I really do feel like this is the best hitting team I’ve ever had," per Megan Schuster’s article in the Missourian.
As for the injury front, the news has been not great. Before the weekend scrimmage (which was outside and in front of almost 600 people at University Field), the Tigers reported that a number of folks were dealing with some issues. It had been reported that Corrin Genovese was dealing with a bruised hand, but she did play over the weekend, so it appears that is under control. Mack was reported to be dealing with a sprained knee and might miss 2-3 weeks. She participated on Sunday, but just defensively, so I am guessing she may not be ready to go this weekend. Morgan Walters was also said to be dealing with a sprained ankle, and I could not find where she was mentioned in the scrimmage write-ups.
However, the worst news came from Sunday and the pregame warmups, where Kayla Kingsley took a bad step in a soft outfield and heard a pop. The HOPE right now (as of Monday morning) is that it is a scar tissue situation, which Henry Josey also dealt with coming back from his injury. If it is something more, it certainly would be devastating to Kingsley and a blow to the team (both morale and offensively to some potential extent).