The Maneater

Missouri softball’s tournament in Arizona causes offensive drought

A 2-0 start to the weekend slipped into a disappointing 2-3 tournament after pitching and hitting issues.

Freshman Kara Decker prepares for a pitch during the Black & Gold game on Feb. 3, 2018.

The Missouri softball team started off hot but then dropped three straight in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, this past weekend. The Tigers’ play started out impressive, turned worrisome and got even uglier as the three days of play went on. The team is now 2-3 on the season.

In the team’s first game of the season against the University of Texas El Paso, pitching showed resilience in a 3-0 shutout. Sophomore Eli Daniel got the win with three perfect innings and five strikeouts, while redshirt junior Madi Norman got the save, posting four innings of two hits against her and registering six strikeouts. Both pitchers stole the show Friday, giving up just two hits between the two of them.

The Tigers’ hitting dominated against California State University Northridge, putting up 19 runs over CSUN’s 10. Junior Regan Nash was the team’s best hitter, going 2 for 3 with a run, home run and an RBI against the Matadors.

Amanda Sanchez made a strong comeback after the redshirt junior missed most of 2017 with an elbow injury. Sanchez, the Tigers’ third baseman, had three hits in both games Friday, including two doubles and a home run.

The Tigers struggled on Saturday morning’s first game against No. 3 Oregon. The Ducks dominated, beating the Missouri 14-2 in just five innings. The duo of Daniel and Norman that dominated the Tigers’ first game against UTEP gave up a combined 14 runs on 14 hits.

"Anytime you lose you will learn things about your team,” interim head coach Gina Fogue said in a press release after Saturday’s games. “We figured out things we need to work on to get better today.”

Saturday night is when the slump really hit. The Tigers played their second ranked game of the season against No. 21 Oklahoma St, losing 6-3 after failing to score until the seventh inning.

A three-run rally in the seventh inning started by sophomore outfielder Cayla Kessinger’s leadoff single provided a spark of offense that had been missing all day.

“They don't throw in the towel and will play hard until the end of each game,” Fogue said in the press release. “We're shifting our focus on tomorrow's game and hope to build on what we learned today."

The offense that showed up late Saturday night did not resurface Sunday morning in the team’s final tournament game. A 3-1 loss to Oregon State ended the weekend quietly; the team was tied at one apiece until the fifth inning, when Oregon State scored 2 after an error by Sanchez. Kessinger’s hitting streak ended at 14 games, tied for seventh in the program’s history.

“We had some chances on offense, but just needed a little better timely hitting,” Fogue said in a press release Sunday. “We will have three good practices this week and address the adjustments we need to make.”

Norman started the game but did not make it through the third inning, letting up three walks. Freshman pitcher Lauren Rice pitched the remaining 4.2 innings and only let up four hits. In three appearances this weekend, Rice struck out nine batters in 11 innings.

“We had a better outing from our pitchers today and I was glad to see that,” Fogue said in the press release.

A deeper pitching roster this season is important; last season, the team relied heavily on Norman, Cheyenne Baxter, who’s since graduated, and junior Danielle Baumgartner. The 2018 rotation features five right-handed pitchers, three of whom are underclassmen. It remains to be seen whether a total lack of left-handed pitching will affect the team.

The Tigers play six more games this weekend, starting Friday against South Florida in the Michele Smith Pediatric Cancer Invitational in Clearwater, Florida.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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