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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tigers lose series, fall to Alabama 2-0

Missouri shifts its focus to the SEC Softball Tournament.

May 3, 2014

Saturday was Senior Day for the Missouri softball team, but senior outfielder Mackenzie Sykes couldn’t enjoy it.

“It’s not really that much different than any other game,” Sykes said. “Any emotion that I have going on right now is just frustration with the way that game turned out. That’s really the only emotion we have right now.”

The No. 13 Tigers (41-15, 15-9 Southeastern Conference) lost Game 3 of its series against No. 6 Alabama, 2-0, Saturday afternoon. After procuring a triumphant win in the series opener Thursday evening, Missouri dropped the next two games with only one run scored over fourteen innings.

On Saturday, its usually explosive offense was unnaturally silent.

The Tigers matched the Tide with five hits, but left 10 runners stranded on base throughout seven innings.

Freshman pitcher Casey Stangel allowed just two hits through 4.1 innings pitched, but walked five out of 19 batters faced with no strikeouts. Freshman Tori Finucane took over for the last 2.2 innings, allowing three hits and striking out three of 11 batters. Both of Alabama’s runs were unearned.

“I think that Tori did great today, and I went out there and did everything that I could,” Stangel said. “It kind of didn’t roll our way today, and so I thought that we had some fight and just kind of fell short today.”

Alabama’s first run came in the top of the third. After a leadoff walk, a steal and a bunt single, runners were on the corners. The runner on first took off for second, but an error by redshirt sophomore catcher Sami Fagan allowed the Tide to score.

Alabama tacked on another run in the fifth, when leadoff batter Andrea Hawkins walked and then advanced to third base on a wild pitch and a Fagan error. Hawkins scored on another wild pitch to put the Tide up 2-0.

Fagan recently transitioned to catcher from shortstop and is still learning the ropes, but coach Ehren Earleywine said he isn’t worried.

“She’s not going to be (St. Louis Cardinals catcher) Yadier Molina by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, “but if she can just keep getting better each week, and she really has, it’ll be good.”

The Tigers got a chance in the fifth inning, when redshirt sophomore outfielder Taylor Gadbois singled up the middle with pinch runner Carlie Rose on second base. Rose attempted to slide into home plate on a wave from Earleywine, but was caught and tagged.

Sykes had the chance to play the hero in the bottom of the seventh. With bases loaded on two outs, the senior stepped up to the plate, hoping for her second career grand slam. It never came, and a strikeout ended the game.

“All I know is that any team in the SEC can beat you on any day,” Sykes said matter-of-factly.

The series just ended, but the Missouri softball team is already looking forward to the possibility of facing Alabama again in the SEC Softball Tournament on May 8.

“I really hope that we do get to see them again,” Stangel said. “I think that Alabama’s a great team, and taking nothing away from them- they had a great weekend- the last two games weren’t our best games.”

Earleywine said despite the team’s performance against Alabama, he is confident in Missouri’s ability for the postseason.

“I think generally speaking this is a team that’s proven that we can beat anybody,” he said. “We beat every team in the SEC at least once, and many of them two or three times. We beat some other teams out of conference that were top ten teams. So I feel good about our team.”

Stangel summed it up: “If we’re playing Mizzou softball, I like the chances against anyone.”

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