Junior Nicole Hudson ended Wednesday’s contest against Western Illinois at University Field by launching the first pitch she saw for a three-run homer over the right centerfield wall, giving the No. 10 Missouri Tigers the 8-0 win.
The blast was an exclamation point on Hudson’s day. The Webb City native went 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs, two runs and a walk for the Tigers (33-8, 10-5 Big 12 Conference).
“Last Saturday, I feel like I made a couple of adjustments and started to get a feel for it and a little more comfortable,” she said. “I feel like I’m right where I want to be going into Oklahoma.”
It took the Tiger offense a few innings to warm up, despite drawing five walks from Western Illinois pitcher Kelsey Michelini in the first three frames.
In the bottom of the first, senior outfielder Ashley Fleming, Hudson, and sophomore center fielder Mackenzie Sykes took back-to-back-to-back walks to load the bases, but freshman first baseman Kelsea Roth popped out to centerfield before Missouri could capitalize.
“The pitcher was all over,” freshman Corrin Genovese said. “You were kind of thinking that you might get walked. We only had five hits. I’m sure if the pitcher was throwing better we would have had more.”
Junior designated player Jenna Marston walked and Fleming was hit by a pitch to lead off the Tigers’ half of the third inning. Sykes smacked a grounder to the Leatherneck shortstop, but a throwing error allowed the bases to be loaded for Roth to loft a sacrifice fly to right field.
One batter later, Hudson and Fleming ran a textbook double steal, plating Fleming and pushing the lead to 2-0.
Junior catcher Rachel Hay gave Missouri more breathing room with a two-out triple that was dropped by Western Illinois’ right fielder on the warning track. Freshman Angela Randazzo and Hudson would score to make it 4-0 Missouri.
The first four Missouri runs were unearned. The first Tiger hit wouldn’t come until Hudson’s double in the bottom of the fifth. The cushion went to 5-0 when freshman Kayla Kingsley slapped a single that snuck by the Leatherneck shortstop, scoring Hudson.
Senior pitcher Kristin Nottelmann started the game for Missouri and went four innings, allowing only one hit and three strikeouts to earn her 11th win. Freshman pitcher Bailey Erwin closed out the last two innings, giving up one hit and striking out one.
Despite putting up the most runs in nearly two weeks, coach Ehren Earleywine saw room for improvement from the offensive side of the plate.
“I wasn’t very pleased today with our hitting as well,” he said. “For the first five innings we weren’t getting any hits. It was real quiet, then bang! Nicole Hudson hits a three-run home run and it looks like you had a great offensive day because of one swing.”
The victory comes on the heels of a disappointing weekend against Big 12 opponent Texas Tech. Missouri dropped two of the three games in the series against what many believe to be an inferior opponent.
Genovese said the team’s confidence wasn’t shaken after the weekend.
“We know that those pitchers weren’t better than our pitchers, and we’re better hitters than them,” she said. “That’s what the Big 12 is, with these three-game series it’s going to be a grind to try and get a game.”
Missouri will next head to Norman, Okla., for a weekend series against No. 5 Oklahoma, which currently sits atop the Big 12 standings.