Missouri softball dominates home-opener against Western Illinois

The Tigers swept the doubleheader, earning identical 6-0 wins at University Field.

Taylor Gadbois likes to run, and as a softball player, that’s sometimes a rare thing to come by. Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine uses Gadbois’ enjoyment as strategy, and with Missouri leading the nation in stolen bases per game, it seems to be working.

“He knows that I like to run,” Gadbois said. “Usually it’s on the first and second pitch, but there’s also times where he’ll wait for a little bit because they know I’m going to go. I love being aggressive and getting into scoring position for everyone.”

Missouri softball dominated their home opener against Western Illinois on Wednesday night, sweeping the doubleheader, winning both games 6-0.

Finally being able to play at University Field after competing on the road since mid-February felt good, to both the players and the coaches.

“I love playing in front of our crowd,” senior Sami Fagen said. “It’s just different, when you look out in the stands and you know people, it just makes it more exciting.”

Missouri’s pitching staff was impressive as four pitchers combined for 14 shutout innings. Sophomore Paige Lowary and freshman Danielle Baumgartner both stepped in the circle for striking relief work. Lowary finished game one with five shutout innings and allowed only two hits during the time she was in the circle. Baumgartner entered in the fourth inning during the second game and only allowed three hits while matching her season high with five strikeouts.

“The idea was to go four innings for the starters and three innings for the reliefs,” Earleywine said. “The rule was if you walk three, you’re done. But we wanted to give them all a little work.”

On the offensive side, the Tigers performed equally well, with Fagen recording a team-high four hits, two RBI’s and two stolen bases in the two games. Freshman Rylee Pierce scored a two-run homer in the second game, her fifth of the season. The wind was a big factor in hitting strategy, and the team strived to keep the ball on the ground to help score runs.

Stealing bases is what helps the Tigers score some of those runs, and having fast and aggressive players is why Missouri leads the field in stolen bases. Earleywine is grateful to have “track-fast” players to help bring in runs during the offense.

“It’s just a different way to score,” he said. “It’s a miniature nightmare for the infield when you’ve got a fast runner on base and a slapper at the plate… So as a coach you try to put that speed together.”

Missouri heads to New Mexico this weekend for a doubleheader on Saturday and one more game on Sunday. The next time the Tigers will play at home will be the SEC home opener against Alabama on March 26.

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