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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kirsten Mack stretches reached-base streak to 22 games in 7-4 softball victory

The senior catcher also hit her fourth home run in six games after returning from a shoulder injury.

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Maneater File Photo

April 20, 2017

Senior Kirsten Mack powered Missouri softball to a 7-4 win over Nebraska-Omaha on Wednesday. Mack mashed a two-run home run to left field and finished the game with three RBIs. With the win, Missouri improved to 27-18 for the season.

The blast marked Mack’s fourth home run in six games and her team-leading 15th multi-hit game of the season. Her hit in the first inning stretched her career-high streak of reaching base to 22 games.

Mack suffered a shoulder injury on April 11 against Western Illinois, but it evidently hasn’t had a major impact on her performance. It might even be helping. Mack said she’s shortened her swing since the injury due to a brace the injury has forced her to wear.

“My swing is a lot shorter A to B, cutting out all movement that doesn’t need to happen because it’s more efficient for me to swing like that,” Mack said. “I’m feeling better now, so I’m swinging at more pitches, but in the Auburn series, I was trying to go up there, take one, two good hacks and take the result.”

Head coach Ehren Earleywine added that the injury has made Mack more disciplined in the pitches she swings at since there is a possibility of pain each time she swings.

“She’s getting the most out of each at bat because she’s only swinging at pitches she knows she can hit good,” Earleywine said. “If she swings and misses or swings and tops one, it can really hurt that shoulder. It’s funny how things like that teach you about the game, but it’s teaching her that if you shrink that strike zone down and get good pitches, you’ll be twice as successful.”

For senior Cheyenne Baxter, the game presented an opportunity to pitch against the school where she began her college career. Baxter pitched in 14 games and posted a 4-1 record as a freshman at UNO in 2014.

Baxter said she was excited and a little nervous to play her former team because she wanted to prove herself. In her four innings of work, Baxter allowed no runs and improved to 14-5 on the season.

Despite the win, coach Earleywine was not pleased with his team.

“I’m very disappointed,” Earleywine said. “No disrespect to UNO, but you’ve gotta win 12, 14, 16 to nothing and we didn’t. I think a lot of times our players are too amped up, and then there are other days where they aren’t amped up enough. Today was one of those days. Good players are able to get into that happy zone, that perfect heart rate level for every game. We didn’t find that zone at all today.”

UNO outhit Missouri 10-9 for the game, but Missouri was able to capitalize on UNO’s sloppy play in the field. In the first inning alone, UNO committed three errors that helped the Tigers jump out to a 4-0 lead it would never relinquish.

Earleywine made it clear that a performance like this can’t happen again.

“It was a really bad outing, that was the message to the team,” Earleywine said. “If we replicate that this weekend, we’ll get swept.”

Missouri hosts No. 20 Kentucky this weekend with a chance to make up ground in the Southeastern Conference standings. Kentucky is 6-9 in SEC play, while Missouri is 5-9. The first game is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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