Missouri falls to South Carolina in series finale

South Carolina avoided the sweep after Missouri took the first two games.
The University of Missouri softball team falls to South Carolina 5-2 on May 5, 2019. Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Despite a late rally, Missouri softball (32-22, 12-12) dropped its third game against South Carolina (36-16, 9-14) on Sunday, 5-2.

“We tell the whole team we’re playing for our seniors,” coach Larissa Anderson said. “I mean we’re always playing for them to get one more game.”

Redshirt senior Madi Norman stepped into the circle at Mizzou Softball Stadium for the final time Sunday with fellow seniors Regan Nash and Kolby Romaine behind her in left field and at first, respectively.

“Honestly, I tried not to think about [it],” Norman said. “Obviously, it was a sad moment for me because this means a lot more to me, being from here. And my thought the whole time was just, 'go out and compete and get these hitters out.’”

After pitching 11 innings the last two days, Norman went 4 1/3 innings in her final home game. She gave up four hits off of five runs.

When the Tipton, Missouri native was taken out of the game in the fifth inning, she received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“It was a great feeling,” Norman said. “I know the Mizzou fans have my back always, and they represented that today.”

After two come-from-behind walk-off wins earlier in the weekend, the Tigers found themselves down early again.

In the top of the first, sophomore Jana Johns put South Carolina on the board with her fourth home run of the series. The solo shot marks Johns’ fifteenth homer of the season, tying her college’s single-season record. The Gamecocks added three more runs in the first and another in the fifth.

Missouri started to form a comeback in the fourth. Sophomore Brooke Wilmes hit a single to center that drove in the Tigers’ only two runs of the game.

South Carolina’s sophomore Kelsey Oh forced six of Missouri’s eight strikeouts in the game. The Tigers only had one strikeout in the previous game against the Gamecocks.

“[Oh] had great stuff,” Anderson said. “She was throwing that screwball, and it really tied us up a bunch of times and [she] had some key strikeouts. We had opportunities with runners in scoring position early on in the game in the first and again in the third. She made some great pitches, but that’s part of the game. We have to make adjustments and continue to compete in the batter’s box.”

Missouri’s offense produced five hits and drew two walks off of Oh, as well as another two hits off of relief pitcher Cayla Drotar.

“We hadn't faced this pitcher all weekend, and we just had to make a few adjustments here and there,” Wilmes said. “This game could come down to one swing, and we just didn't execute that today.”

Down to its final out, Missouri still proved it had a chance. Sophomore Hatti Moore singled to give the Tigers their first base runner of the inning. Sophomore Kim Wert followed by reaching base on an error by the third baseman. Sophomore Kara Decker came up to the plate as the tying run, but wasn’t able to pull the trigger.

“That's all you can do,” Anderson said. “You want to get that tying girl up at the plate [and] we had our opportunities. They competed all weekend. I'm so proud of them, and so happy for the seniors to have such a great weekend all the way around. But we're not done yet. We've got a lot of [the] season left.”

Sunday’s loss puts the Tigers in a four-way tie for sixth place in the final SEC standings. Missouri will be the No. 7 seed in the SEC tournament, facing off against No. 10 seed Auburn on Wednesday in College Station, Texas.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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