This May marked the first time the Missouri Tigers would not be advancing to NCAA Super Regionals since 2007. But while this year’s team ended its season earlier than expected, there are reasons to already start looking ahead to next season.
“There’s a lot of talent coming back — they’re a great group of girls and awesome coaches, so they’ll be back,” outgoing senior Mackenzie Sykes said of next season.
Mizzou will lose Sykes, the team’s leader in RBIs this past season, and will also be without Alora Marble, who, while only being the team’s No. 3 starter, delivered a number of times when called upon throughout the season.
“It’s the human being that Mackenzie is that I’m going to miss the most,” Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. “I truly admire her as a person. I can’t even get close to her as a person. Alora’s the same way. They’re just five-star human beings. I’d let them watch my kid for a month while I was on vacation and not have to worry about calling home.”
But the Tigers aren’t just losing graduating seniors. The program announced May 28 that four players are transferring, including pitcher Casey Stangel. Stangel was 15-10 with a 3.27 ERA as a freshman.
Other players transferring are freshman infielder Kelli Schkade, sophomore outfielder Sarah Moore and sophomore catcher Carlie Rose.
“We wish Sarah, Carlie, Kelli and Casey the best and thank them and their families for being a part of our program,” Earleywine said in a press release.
Eight starters will return for Missouri, including All-Southeastern Conference junior shortstop Corrin Genovese, junior Kelsea Roth and the rest of the infield.
“She’s a leader anyway because she’s so personable,” Earleywine said of Genovese. “She has so much charisma. And the girls admire her because she does stuff on the field that they could practice for the rest of her lives and still not do it. So she’s just instantly been a leader since she got here.”
Genovese has been known for her glove, but shone at the plate this year, batting .410 for the season, including a 9-16 performance in the Columbia Regional — setting the stage for a big senior year.
Roth, on the other hand, had a down year after leading the team in home runs her sophomore season. She hit .256 for the year, with a mediocre 20 RBIs. If Roth can turn back the clock next season and be the power hitter she was her sophomore year, it would help the Tigers offense get back to where it was during their Women’s College World Series years.
“After Mackenzie’s gone, the only people that have been to the (Women’s College) World Series now is the coaching staff,” Genovese said. “So I think it has been motivation since three years ago when we lost to Louisiana State (in the super regional round) to get back there.”
The Tigers’ outfield will be patrolled by third team All-American Taylor Gadbois, who also batted .421 with 46 stolen bases this past season. The slash-hitter will anchor an outfield looking to fill the void left by Sykes in left field.
Mizzou’s rotation will return of its top pitchers, Tori Finucane.
Despite the thumb injury that sidelined her during the Columbia Regional, Finucane is expected to be healthy for next season. The Tigers will also add a left-handed pitcher in incoming freshman Paige Lowary. Lowary was Iowa’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2013 and is expected to see some time in the circle next season.
Earleywine acknowledged the firepower the Tigers will return next year, but added it means nothing if they get banged up.
“Yeah we got a really good team coming back next year and some really good kids coming in,” he said. “The cupboard’s full. We just have to stay healthy.”