The Maneater

Four Missouri players to keep an eye on in this weekend’s Mizzou Tournament

Madi Norman will start her second home opener, Braxton Burnside will return from an ankle injury and a combination of Brooke Wilmes and Amanda Sanchez at the plate should provide offensive power for the Tigers.

Braxton Burnside in a game against Butler last season. The sophomore will be a key component of this year's team. Maneater File Photo

Four key players to watch:

Amanda Sanchez

Sanchez is back after an arm injury ended her 2017 season on March 17. She said she started swinging a bat after four months and felt completely recovered in time for fall softball after five to six months of recovery.

The redshirt junior is batting a team-high .552 and went 4 for 5 with two doubles on Friday.

“I just do what I always do, just kinda don’t try to do too much and then whatever happens, happens,” Sanchez said. “So I guess I’m hot right now, so hopefully it can stay like that.”

Interim head coach Gina Fogue said Sanchez’s approach to games is the same as her approach to practice, which makes her calm during games.

“She keeps her heart rate the same as a practice as in the games,” Fogue said. “She makes it look easy because she’s focused and locked in.”

Madi Norman

The right-handed redshirt junior earned the home-opening start for the second year in a row. She pitched five innings, allowing only three hits and striking out six against Southeast Louisiana on Friday.

“I felt OK,” Norman said. “I mean, there’s definitely room to improve, so it wasn’t my best, but I did what I needed to do to win.”

Last year, Norman allowed seven runs on eight hits in the home opener against Oregon, ranked No. 4 at the time. “Getting to do that twice in a row was a big honor, and I’m glad that I was able to do it,” Norman said. “I’m definitely less nervous this year all-around.”

Thirty-one innings and five starts into the season, Norman has a 2.26 earned run average.

Brooke Wilmes

Wilmes led the team’s offense against Southeastern Louisiana with five runs batted in, including a three-run home run to center field in the fourth inning. The freshman infielder from Johnston, Iowa, is batting .366.

“Brooke Wilmes has been stepping up big the last couple weekends for us; I’m real proud of her,” Fogue said. “I love what I’m seeing from her.”

Braxton Burnside

The sophomore shortstop rolled her ankle in the third inning of the Feb. 18 game against Florida Atlantic. She missed seven games but returned to the lineup Friday, where she went 1 for 3 in both games and committed an error.

“She’s moving quite a bit better than she was, so I’m glad to see that,” Fogue said, noting that Burnside is not playing at 100 percent yet.

Wilmes said Burnside is valuable, both as a defensive mentor and as a power spot in the lineup.

“She’s a big contributor that we’re happy to have back,” Wilmes said.

Burnside’s historic freshman season last year was highlighted by 12 home runs. She broke offensive records in the program, the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA. According to Mizzou Athletics, her 52 RBIs puts her in second place in program history for most ever by a freshman. Sanchez is in first place, driving in 56 during her freshman season.

Burnside is currently batting .314.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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