Missouri softball takes four of six games in Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic

After four great offensive performances, the Tigers put up 36 runs in California.
Sophomore pitcher Danielle Baumgartner, 10, launches the ball during the home game facing Butler on March 5, 2017.

The Missouri softball team won two out of its first three games in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, California, on Thursday and Friday. The team played Wisconsin and Bethune-Cookman on Saturday and a final matchup Sunday against the No. 3 UCLA Bruins. The Tigers picked up two impressive wins against Wisconsin and Bethune-Cookman but fell to the Bruins 4-0.

On Thursday and Friday, the Tiger offense was unrelenting, putting up 21 runs.

Missouri made an impressive comeback in its first game Thursday afternoon, beating Brigham Young University 8-6. The Tigers trailed the Cougars 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning but answered back with seven runs over their next three at-bats. It was a great showing by the Tigers’ young players. Freshman Brooke Wilmes went 3 for 4, scoring three runs and driving in a run herself. Freshman Callie Martin went 1 for 4 and drove in three runs.

Junior Regan Nash also made a big impact in the game, notching her first three-hit game of the season and matching her single-game career high.

After starting the game strong, Missouri dropped its second game against No. 9 Arizona Thursday night. The Tigers had a two-run lead entering the sixth inning, but after their pitching got sloppy in the sixth, the Wildcats rallied with seven unanswered runs, leading to a 9-4 win for Arizona. The bats didn’t cool off, however, as all four Missouri runs against the Wildcats came from three home runs.

Redshirt junior Amanda Sanchez continued to be a big power hitter for the Tigers, going 2 for 3 with a home run and two RBIs. Sophomore Cayla Kessinger and freshman Kara Decker both hit their first home runs of the season.

“I continue to be impressed with the fight in this team so far,” interim head coach Gina Fogue said in a press release after Thursday’s game. “We continue to show that we can compete with top-tier teams this year, but need to work on getting over that hump that has cost us.”

Missouri’s next game was Friday against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tigers controlled the game early, going up 3-0 in the first inning and tacking on two more runs in the second to make it 5-0. The pitching staff followed the offense’s success and dominated North Carolina hitters, allowing just four hits in the entire game while not surrendering a single run. It was the team’s second shutout of the season and the first game of the season the Tigers won by run-rule. Missouri beat North Carolina 9-0 in five innings.

“I was real pleased with our aggressiveness at the plate today,” interim head coach Gina Fogue said in a press release. “We also made them work, which led to a lot of walks and base runners for us.”

Decker led the way for the Tigers against the Tar Heels, going 2 for 3 with a triple and three runs batted in. Kessinger also helped in the Tigers’ victory with three runs scored and a home run.

On the mound, redshirt junior Madi Norman shut down the Tar Heels, pitching four shutout innings while only allowing four hits and collecting four strikeouts. Sophomore Nalani Scates relieved Norman in the fifth inning and pitched a scoreless frame to end the game.

“Our pitchers were outstanding today as well,” Fogue said in a press release. “Madi [Norman] and Nalani [Scates] were pumping strikes and delivering quick innings.”

The Tigers put the game away in the fourth inning, scoring four runs on only one hit. Missouri was disciplined and patient at the plate, earning two walks and two hit-by-pitches to get runners on base. With the walks, freshman Hatti Moore and junior Rylee Pierce were able to drive in two runs with two sacrifice flies, and Decker singled to drive in her third run of the game. After North Carolina pitcher Brittany Pickett threw a wild pitch that led to yet another run, the score was 9-0. With the win, Norman improved to 3-0 on the season.

On Saturday, the offense continued its hot streak from the previous three games, scoring a combined 15 runs in two games.

In the first game against Wisconsin, the Tigers scored seven runs off eight hits. The runs came largely thanks to Sanchez, who went 3 for 4, hitting her fifth home run of the year and driving in two runs.

Hot bats and strong pitching led to an 8-0 five-inning shutout against Bethune-Cookman on Saturday evening. Scates pitched four innings, allowing one hit and notching two strikeouts. She shined on the mound, pitching 10.1 consecutive scoreless innings since Feb. 9.

Pitching alone didn’t secure the win, as Kessinger, Nash, Wilmes and freshman Trenity Edwards all had multi-hit games to lead the Tigers.

The team’s balanced offense led to eight runs in just five innings. The Tigers took the lead early, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the first. Kessinger started the onslaught in the second inning with a two-run bomb to left center. The second inning quickly got out of hand, as the Tigers scored six runs to extend the lead to 7-0. A base hit that drove home a runner in the third inning capped off the 8-0 win.

"We're playing well overall right now, starting back with the conclusion of last weekend's Michele Smith Invitational in Florida,” Fogue said in a press release after Saturday’s double-header. “Wisconsin really struggled defensively in game one and our girls capitalized at the plate. Eli [Daniel] and Lauren [Rice] were real efficient in the circle and got a lot of swing and misses.”

Sunday’s game against UCLA was a different story. The offense never found its stride, leaving seven runners on base and ending the game without scoring a run.

Despite the Tigers’ poor hitting performance, pitchers Lauren Rice and Eli Daniel shut down the Bruins’ offense for the majority of the game. Rice went five innings and gave up just two runs; a couple of crucial errors in the third inning led to two unearned runs scored by the Bruins. Daniel came in to relieve Rice in the sixth inning and struck out two batters, keeping Mizzou within striking distance.

However, UCLA pitchers Holly Azevedo and Rachel Garcia never let the Tigers gain any momentum. Missouri left five runners on base in the first three innings, going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in those innings. It was an impressive game for the Tigers’ pitching staff, which kept them in the game against the third-ranked team in the country.

"We didn't end our weekend like we wanted to today, but we fought hard again against a top nationally ranked opponent like UCLA,” Fogue said in a press release Sunday. “If you take away a couple defensive miscues in the third inning, we're only looking at a one or two-run deficit late.”

Even with the loss, Missouri went 4-2 in the tournament and now sits at 10-7 on the season.

“Overall this weekend we did a lot of good things and we continue to get better as a whole,” Fogue said in the press release. “ We're all excited to finally play in front of our home fans next weekend with the Mizzou Tournament."

The Mizzou Tournament starts Friday and ends Sunday, with the Tigers hosting Southeastern Louisiana, Drake and Creighton. The team’s home opener against Southeastern Louisiana is Friday at 3 p.m.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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