For Missouri softball, former teammates loom in Oklahoma rotation as NCAA Regional swings into gear
The Tigers may have to face their former star and current Oklahoma ace Paige Lowary, or fellow pitcher Parker Conrad, in the NCAA Tournament.
May. 18, 2018
With a double elimination bracket in the NCAA Tournament’s Norman Regional — which will host only four teams — Missouri softball may very well see the tournament’s No. 4 overall seed Oklahoma at some point. And beyond Oklahoma being the two-time defending national champions, facing the Sooners means possibly facing Paige Lowary or Parker Conrad, two former Missouri pitchers.
“First things first, we’ve got to take care of Tulsa,” Missouri interim coach Gina Fogue said on Tuesday. “We’ve got to show up for that game one pitch at a time and then go from there.”
Fogue acknowledged the excitement of potentially running into a Lowary start if Missouri (28-27) wins on Friday, but she didn’t want to linger on the possibility.
Lowary transferred to Oklahoma after playing for two years in Columbia. She broke seven single-season records as a sophomore for the Tigers, including her 198 innings pitched and 16 complete games. She was dominant in the 2016 NCAA Regionals, tossing three complete game shutouts to go 3-0.
In 2017, her first season with Oklahoma, her 1.53 ERA and 32 earned runs outpaced even her time at Missouri. She helped Oklahoma claim a second straight national title.
The Sooners clinched the 2018 Big 12 Softball Championship on May 12, as Lowary pitched a complete game in their 6-4 win over Baylor. It was her eighth win this season.
Parker Conrad, who pitched for Missouri last year, is no longer listed on MU Athletics 2017 softball roster. Conrad went 1-3 and finished third out of four Missouri pitchers with a 3.98 ERA. She was expected to be a consistent starter but was injured for part of the season and only made 19 appearances.
Conrad told former coach Ehren Earleywine that she was transferring on June 8, less than a month after the 2017 season concluded. This season, Conrad has a 0.62 ERA, last appearing in Oklahoma’s 9-6 win over Iowa State on May 11.
With Lowary and Conrad being two of the team’s five pitchers, the Tigers would most likely face at least one of their former teammates in an Oklahoma-Missouri matchup. Lowary is one of two left handed pitchers for Oklahoma and recently was drafted first overall in the National Pro Fastpitch League in April. She was taken by the Chicago Bandits.
If Lowary pitched, she would go up against eight former teammates still on Missouri’s roster, including junior infielder Rylee Pierce.
“I don’t talk to her very often,” Pierce said of Lowary. “The Big 12 doesn’t have a network, so it’s tough to watch them play very often. When [opponents] are SEC teams every week you can watch them play the week before, their midweek, pretty much all the time. Oklahoma’s a little bit different, but I’m excited for the challenge."
Conrad would face 11 former teammates, including fellow pitchers Madi Norman and Danielle Baumgartner.
The biggest change in the Missouri program since Lowary and Conrad departed is the absence of Earleywine, who coached both former Tigers. Earleywine was fired in January and replaced by Fogue, who coached as an assistant before stepping into the interim head coach role.
In a story posted by OU Athletics, Lowary was asked about playing Missouri. The two teams have not faced each other since Lowary transferred.
“There’s a narrative with it, but I don’t really feel like vengeance or any type of feeling toward it,” Lowary said in the article. “I’m just treating them like any other team.”
The NCAA's Regional format is a double elimination bracket, so if the Tigers win their first game against Tulsa and Oklahoma wins its first game (which it is heavily favored in), or even if Missouri loses its opener then battles back, the two teams would be set to collide at some point during the tournament.
“I know that [Boston will] be competitive and Tulsa will too, so all around it’s gonna be a pretty awesome region,” Pierce said. “There’s gonna be some really good softball being played.”
Edited by Bennett Durando | firstname.lastname@example.org