Missouri softball primed to continue offensive excellence in 2017

Despite changes in the lineup, the Tigers have the tools to build off of their record-breaking 2016 season.
Redshirt sophomore Madi Norman, 22, pitches towards the end of the first game of the double header facing Evangelical University on Oct. 28, 2016. Through the game, Norman allowed only seven hits, one walk, and one strikeout. Maneater File Photo

Missouri softball enters the season hoping to pick up where it left off last year offensively after a record-breaking 2016.

The Tigers posted a .327 team batting average and 165 stolen bases last season, both single-season records for the program. Even with the loss of the team’s top three hitters and scorers, four players with batting averages over .300 have returned for the 2017 season.

Senior Chloe Rathburn is back for her second season on the team. One of the team’s top returning producers, Rathburn had 60 RBIs and smashed 15 home runs in 57 games last season. She trailed only graduating senior Emily Crane in both categories.

Infielder Amanda Sanchez started every game last season and maintained a .354 batting average. She had 10 multi-RBI games and has not had fewer than 60 hits in either of her two seasons at Mizzou. Regan Nash, who hit .336 last season as a freshman, will be joined in the outfield by four freshmen this year.

The freshman class of eight is made up of utility players, outfielders, infielders and one pitcher. First-year outfielder Cayla Kessinger batted .505 in her senior season and was named a 2016 All-American by two organizations, FloSoftball and Premier Girls Fastpitch.

When it comes to speed, the Tigers have a high reputation to uphold. With graduates Sami Fagan, Emily Crane and Taylor Gadbois accounting for 107 of the team’s 165 total stolen bases last season, there will be an increased responsibility on the rest of the team on the base path.

Incoming freshman Lexi Rampetsreiter adds speed to the outfield and the lineup. The Lee’s Summit, Missouri, native holds her high school’s single-season stolen base record with 27. Rampetsreiter was never caught stealing in her entire high school career. Additionally, she was a four-year Missouri All-State track and field athlete. Rampetsreiter will help fill the speed gap left by the graduating senior class.

Last season, the Tigers averaged 6.7 runs per game while holding their opponent to just 3.6 runs on average. The 73 home runs during the 2016 season ranks third in program history. However, the team struggled to convert baserunners to runs in some opportunities, leaving 390 runners on base compared to their opponents’ 349.

Offensively, the Tigers have been on an upward trend since Ehren Earleywine became head coach in 2007. Earleywine holds the program’s highest winning percentage with a .746 win percentage in over 800 games.

The Tigers begin their season with the Black and Gold Game on Feb. 4. A week later, the team will travel to Charleston, South Carolina to play in the Charleston Southern Tournament, ready to start a new season with a chance to continue their offensive numbers.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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