Well Switz, the #10 Tigers saw their 2015 campaign come to a close this past weekend, dropping two games to the #7 UCLA Bruins, who earned a trip to OKC for the College World Series, set to start this coming Thursday. We will certainly spend a decent amount of time in the months to come reviewing this year and working towards previewing next season, so let’s keep this to just this past weekend, but where did it go wrong for Mizzou out in LA?
That's a long list. I think we have to start with what the Tigers couldn't control. Paige Lowary was clearly not 100% this weekend; whatever that stomach bug was, it was bad. She deserves a lot of credit for battling - especially after Tori Finucane took a liner off the face - but she didn't have her A-game. And against UCLA, nothing less than that is going to get the job done.
Then there's everything else. I'll be brief in the interest of time. Sami Fagan committed a couple painful errors at 2nd. Both pitchers fell into the habit of walking way too many batters. Any number of Mizzou hitters found themselves incapable of getting the big hit in bases loaded situations. Any number of UCLA hitters managed to get the big hit in 2 out situations....over and over and over and over. Amanda Sanchez's ankle prevented Earleywine from putting in a hitter like Jordan Zolman at DH, who might have been more help than Angela Randazzo. Kirsten Mack had another shaky display at handling the catch and tag on outfield throws. Something something strike zone that I don't really want to get into. And fittingly enough, Taylor Gadbois struck out to end the season.
Basically, Mizzou needed to execute at a very high level for at least 2 games in order to pull this out. They had their chances and their moments, but they just couldn't put it all together. Anything in there strike you as being particularly to blame for the Tigers' losses?
Defense and the walks have been the margin of error for this team all season long. On the right side of it, they were VERY tough to beat. On the wrong side of it, and they struggled to win games. In most cases, if you offer me nine runs against UCLA, I’d have thought we’d’ve won at least one game, if not both. But the defense and walks stretched an already thin staff (Paige because of illness and Tori because of last weekend and then injury) well past their breaking point. Timelier hitting for the Tigers would have been nice, but again, scoring nine runs in two games is typically quite sufficient for at least one win. The timely hitting of UCLA certainly hurt us, but the reduction of walks and errors would have also reduced the amount of opportunities UCLA had, and the potential rate of damage inflicted.
But take nothing away from UCLA. While their pitching might be what ultimately holds them back from winning it all, their hitting lived up to the billing and they took it to Mizzou at every opportunity.
So before we get into pieces about departing seniors, returning starters and newcomers to keep an eye on (FORESHADOWING), let’s take a 10,000 ft view of the season as a whole. With what we knew about this group (or at least thought we knew) back in February, how do you ultimately feel the 2015 season will be seen? Success? Failure? Otherwise?
Looking at this season independently of the program as a whole, this season has to be considered a success. For all the problems we've been quick to document, this team ended up reaching a super regional, posting arguably the best offensive season in team history, and overcoming some particularly untimely injuries to post a 42-16 overall record and a #10 seed in the tournament. That's a dream season for all but maybe 15-20 programs in the sport.
Fortunately for Mizzou, they are one of those upper echelon programs. And so in the long-term, I think this season is going to be seen as one of progress. Mizzou had one of it's lowest seasons in recent memory last year. They lost only 1 senior (and some transfers) and managed to build on it this year.
Beyond record, though, this was one of the most enjoyable teams Mizzou has put on the field. From the rejuvenation of Kelsea Roth, to the ongoing fun of Emily Crane, to the many comeback victories (and near-misses), to the visions of dancing Earleywines dodging foul line drives to the third base side, to the last games of Kayla Kingsley and Corrin Genovese, to beating Kansas again....and again....this has just been a good ride and another affirmation of Mizzou's place in the softball world.
It certainly was fun and fulfilling for me to see Kelsea Roth shake off a DREADFUL start to the season and see her finish with such a bang (literally). The 100+ stolen bases is a lot of fun, but mixed with all the HR’s, it made for such a dynamic offense. I think the pitching showed promise and potential, but never quite got firing on all cylinders at the same time. And the fielding took a pretty big step back. But all in all, certainly an enjoyable season and you are right, one that should hopefully be pretty foundational for the future.
So that's all for now kind readers. Switzy and I will circle up over the coming weeks and start to put together some review pieces on the departing seniors and others, a preview of those returning, as well as whatever we can scrounge up on the newcomers.