Thomas’ pitching, improved hitting have made Missouri softball dominant

The two-time All-American broke the school record for most career wins with her 103rd on April 19.

Fans of Missouri softball knew well in advance what they would get from senior pitcher Chelsea Thomas. The Iowa native entered the season as a two-time All-American, indisputably the best pitcher in Missouri history.

As expected, Thomas leads the Southeastern Conference in both ERA and opponent batting average. What didn’t appear to be such a sure thing was the offense, batting just .264 as a team last season. No longer a hindrance, Missouri is batting .318 this year with just more than half the team batting more than .300.

The team’s power rises along with its average. After hitting 52 home runs all year in 2012, Missouri totals 50 with eight games to play in a season with 14 canceled contests.

With 12 home runs apiece, senior designated hitter Nicole Hudson and sophomore first basemen Kelsea Roth provide most of the power. Last season, Roth parked just seven while batting a pedestrian .260.

“In that last at-bat, she took those first two that were inside for balls, and then got a good one and hit it out of the park,” coach Ehren Earleywine said after Roth ended Missouri’s 9-0 win over Arkansas with a home run on April 12. “That’s the difference. Last year, she swung at anything inside, to the point — anybody that was here remembers this — she swung at a pitch that was so inside, that it came back and hit her in the face.”

Freshman second baseman Emily Crane has made an impact as a newcomer. The leadoff hitter leads tops the team with a .364 batting average and a strong on-base percentage well over .400.

Along with the impressive hitting, Missouri’s team ERA currently sits below two. Thomas’ 1.41 ERA in 134 1/3 innings pitched is a big reason why. On April 19, Thomas was rewarded, as she won her 103rd game in a Tiger uniform, giving her the school record for career wins.

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