In the first half of the first inning of the softball DeMarini Invitational, Alcorn State plated a run on Missouri with a sacrifice fly from Rayanna Davis. That run would be the only one the Tigers would allow all afternoon, as they run-ruled both Alcorn State and Boise State to open up their home schedule.
After opening up the season with 13 straight road games, the Tigers returned home to improve their record to 12-3 on Friday with a 14-1 victory over Alcorn State and an 8-0 win over Boise State.
With Missouri heavily favored in both games this afternoon, coach Ehren Earleywine saw it as an opportunity to shuffle up the lineup. In total, 13 Tigers saw the field on the day.
“I never let them get comfortable, and I let everyone know that there’s a chance you could play,” Earleywine said. “But it’s not the YMCA. I’m not playing everybody just to play. If they deserve opportunities, I give them opportunities.”
The bulk of the lineup shuffling came in the 14-1 trouncing of Alcorn State. Senior pitcher Kristin Nottlemann shook off a one-run first inning, holding the Braves scoreless for the remainder of the contest.
A third inning home run from junior Nicole Hudson, her second of the year, put the Tigers in front 6-1, which was more than enough for Missouri to cruise to a run-rule win.
Boise State put up more of a fight in the second leg of the double-header. Missouri sent ace-pitcher junior Chelsea Thomas to the circle and was true to form. Thomas was lights out, allowing just one hit — a lead-off single — the entire game, narrowly missing a no-hitter.
“You can’t throw one every game,” Thomas said after the game.
In the bottom half of the first inning, senior outfielder Ashley Fleming crushed a three-run home run to open up the scoring for Missouri. And with Thomas pitching, the Missouri dugout was at ease.
“Ashley Fleming hits a three-run home run in the first inning and the game’s over,” Earleywine said.
But the Tigers were not done scoring. Freshman first basemen Kelsea Roth made the most of her first games at University Field. The California native lifted a home run to left field after a Fleming double. Roth was batting cleanup and rewarded Earleywine’s confidence.
“It’s kind of intimidating because I’m batting between two of the best hitters on the team, but they’re supporting me,” Roth said. “When one of us fails the other ones have their back. I’m just trying to see good pitches, get the one that I want and go from there.”
Roth bats behind Fleming, who also had a big day at the plate. Fleming noted the difference the freshmen have brought to the clubhouse.
“It’s a completely different team on and off the field,” Fleming said. “You can tell that they’re not as experienced, but in a way it’s good.”
Earleywine was concerned after a slow start from the newcomers, but said his new recruits have slowly turned things around.
“We knew that four or five of these freshmen were going to have to do good things for us to win this year,” Earleywine said. “Slowly but surely they have done better each weekend.”
The Tigers will continue with tournament action Saturday with games against Alcorn State at 12:30 p.m. and Boise State at 3 p.m.