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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Mizzou Softball knocks off No. 9 Kentucky in opening game

Series concludes today with a doubleheader, moving up Sunday’s game ahead of inclement weather.

March 15, 2014

When the chorus to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” rings out at University Field, you know something’s coming. That something is junior third baseman Angela Randazzo.

Randazzo’s two-run homer was an early indicator as No. 16 Missouri softball took down No. 9 Kentucky, 7-2, in the first game of its home opener series Friday evening.

Redshirt sophomore outfielder Taylor Gadbois wasted no time with a leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning, her first-ever collegiate double. A Wildcat error allowed sophomore outfielder Emily Crane an RBI triple, scoring Gadbois. Randazzo crossed the plate on an RBI single from senior outfielder Mackenzie Sykes to put Missouri ahead, 2-0.

After a no-hit second inning, Randazzo blasted a home run to left field to score herself and redshirt sophomore shortstop Sami Fagan: a 4-0 lead in the third.

“Actually, I didn’t really know it was going to be out,” Randazzo said. “I was just focusing, because my first at-bat she kind of jammed me every single pitch. … When I saw that pitch, I was just going to swing at it. That’s all I really did was react.”

Coach Ehren Earleywine summed up the significance of Randazzo’s at-bat.

“I thought Randazzo’s hit was kind of the one that broke their backs,” Earleywine said.

The Tigers ramped up the power from there on out. In the fourth inning, singles from Gadbois and redshirt sophomore Ashtin Stephens and a walk for Fagan loaded the bases with two outs. Crane was walked to bring in Stephens for an unearned run, and Gadbois stole home base on a wild pitch.

Fast forward to the top of the sixth. With no outs, Kentucky had runners on second and third base, threatening to end freshman pitcher Tori Finucane’s hopes for a shutout. There was an ominous crack as the Wildcat batter connected with a 2-2 pitch. Then, in the blink of an eye, junior third baseman Corrin Genovese snagged a hard line drive out of the air and tagged the corner runner, putting two outs on the board. Another groundout to Genovese ends the inning, and Missouri escapes by the skin of their teeth.

“(Genovese) is a great defender and she’s got great instincts,” Earleywine said. “A lot of kids might have caught that ball, but she caught it and tagged the base all in one motion. That’s just thinking one step ahead and that’s instinct. You can’t teach that. It was a really special play and got us out of a big jam.”

The Tiger offense made it up to Genovese in the second half of the inning. Crane delivered an RBI double to left center field, scoring Fagan and putting Missouri up, 7-0, within one run of the mercy rule.

And that’s when Finucane hit a wall.

With two outs and bases loaded in the seventh, Finucane doled out two consecutive walks to give Kentucky their first two unearned runs of the game accompanied by a chorus of boos. Then, the crowd of 1,103 spectators rose to their feet, bleachers rocking. Finucane delivered a three-pitch strikeout to secure her first collegiate home win, 7-2.

“These fans are incredible,” Finucane said. “We had so many people out here tonight, and just knowing that you have that kind of support for your program, it just makes everything so much better.”

Missouri continues the series with Kentucky on Saturday with a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. The second game is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.

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