The Missouri softball team swept Evansville in its doubleheader Wednesday, but to coach Ehren Earleywine, not all wins are created equal.
“I thought we stunk,” Earleywine said.
The No. 8 Tigers snuck by the Purple Aces, winning the first game 3-1 and coming from two runs behind to win the second game 4-3 Wednesday afternoon at University Field. But Earleywine felt his team underperformed in just about ever aspect of the game.
“I’m really disappointed in our hitting, I’m really disappointed in our defense and I’m really disappointed in our enthusiasm," Earleywine said. "The only bright spots, in my mind, were Chelsea (Thomas) and Nicole (Hudson).”
Thomas pitched the first game, giving up just two hits and striking out 10 batters in seven innings of work. Hudson stepped into the circle for the second, also pitching a complete game, and striking out six.
In the second game, Hudson gave up two runs in the top of the sixth, giving Evansville a 3-1 lead.
The Tigers rallied in the bottom of the inning, scoring three runs to take a 4-3 lead, including the go-ahead run on a pinch-hit single by sophomore Angela Randazzo. Missouri then clamped down, retiring Evansville in order. Despite the effort to regain and hold onto the lead, Earleywine wondered why it took so long.
“I see it as laziness, because, to me, you should try that hard from the start,” Earleywine said. “Waiting until you get behind or waiting until the game’s close to start trying is the true sign of an amateur.”
Earleywine’s frustration built over the course of the two games.
“There comes a point where you try so hard, and there comes a point where it’s not working, and you just say ‘There’s nothing I can do from my position,'" Earleywine said." I can’t swing the bat for them. I can’t field the ball for them. So sometimes, you endure those moments where you feel helpless, and today was one of those moments where you just feel helpless.”
His frustration seemed to peak when it came to offense, as Missouri managed just 12 hits on the day. Earleywine, somewhat sarcastically, placed the blame on himself.
“I know somewhere along the line I’ve obviously failed them as a hitting coach for them to come out here against Evansville and barely put any runs on the board,” Earleywine said. “I’ve got to do a better job. It starts with me, and hopefully they’ll follow suit.”
Earleywine’s players agreed with his assessment.
“We know we can hit better than that, we know we need to,” senior catcher Jenna Marston said.
The players in the lineup that did hit were at the top. The first three batters — Hudson, freshman Emily Crane and senior Jenna Marston — had seven of the team’s 12 hits Wednesday.
Although it might not have been his favorite victory, the win marked Earleywine’s 300th win at Missouri.
“In honor of all the great players that I’ve coached that have allowed me to get to that, though, I say thank you to them,” Earleywine said.
Earleywine wasn’t the only one to enjoy a milestone Wednesday. In the third inning of the first game, Thomas struck out the 1,000th batter of her college career.
“It’s pretty awesome to have been here long enough to have done that,” Thomas said.