Saturday was not a day that brought smiles to head coach Ehren Earleywine’s face as No. 16 Missouri (16-7, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) dropped a doubleheader and therefore the series against No. 9 Kentucky (21-4, 4-2 SEC), 3-2 and 8-7.
“It was just a lot of technical X’s and O’s kind of stuff today that we have to get better on,” Earleywine said.
The Tigers got off to a good start in game one, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first off singles by junior Angela Randazzo and senior Mackenzie Sykes.
Freshman starter Casey Stangel would get into a groove early on, taking care of the Kentucky lineup mainly until the fifth inning, when the Cats tied the game on a double by catcher Griffin Joiner.
Joiner is considered one of the best catchers in the Southeastern Conference and backed up the talk, giving the Tigers headaches all day.
The Wildcats would take the lead in the top of the seventh on a home run by Lauren Cumbess which would give the Cats the lead for good.
The Tigers would get the tying run as far as second base but were unable to drive second baseman Ashtin Stephens in, dropping the first game of the double-bill.
“I thought this was Casey’s best outing in a while,” Earleywhine said of Stangel. “She gave up a lot of hits but she did a good job.
Freshman Tori Finucane was in the circle for the Tigers in game two and struggled early, giving up two early runs in the second inning off a home run to Wildcats shortstop Christian Stokes.
The Tigers would get a run back in the bottom half of the third inning thanks to a fielding error, but would go on to trail as many as five runs due to some mental lapses and errors that aided the already powerful Wildcat offense.
“Kentucky is a great hitting team, they’re ranked ninth in the nation,” sophomore catcher Carlie Rose said. “They hit the ball very well and you have to give it to them.”
The Tigers would go on to score five runs in the sixth and seventh innings, headlined by a two-run game tying home run by red Rose in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings.
Stangel would return to the mound for the Tigers in the eighth innings and give up the go-ahead run after a leadoff triple put the Wildcats in scoring position early. The Tigers’ bats went quietly the following frame as the team dropped their second straight SEC series.
“I don’t think there’s a magic answer,” Earleywhine said of the team’s close conference losses. “I think the plus is we are in every game, but the minus is we are losing one run games … If we played fundamentally sound softball today, we would have run by three or four runs.”
The Tigers next play on Tuesday when the Illinois State Redbirds come to town for a doubleheader. First pitch is slated for 3 pm.