Tigers softball defeats St. Louis in a doubleheader

The softball team will play UCLA and Oregon next.
Senior Andee Allen is greeted by teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against St. Louis. The Tigers swept the Billikens in the teams' home opener Wednesday at University Field.

The No. 12 Missouri Tigers softball team swept St. Louis in a doubleheader on Wednesday, winning the first game 12-0 and the second game 7-2.

The Tigers, who improved their record to 10-0, are off to their best start since 1992, while the Bilikens dropped to 3-8 this year. The Tigers improved their overall record against St. Louis to 56-2.

In the first game, Missouri got off to a fast start, scoring three runs in the first inning and never looking back. It was also keyed by a strong pitching performance from freshman Chelsea Thomas, who threw five shutout innings, only allowing two hits and striking out five.

"I felt really good, I feel that my arm is totally in shape," Thomas said.

Coach Ehren Earleywine said the lead allowed Thomas to work on other pitches besides her drop-ball pitch, which is her strength.

"When she develops a second and third pitch she's going to be a showstopper," Earleywine said.

The first game ended early because of a mercy rule, which dictates that a game ends if a team is up by eight or more runs by the end of the fifth inning. The only weakness the Tigers showed in the first game was hitting with runners in scoring position, as the Tigers left nine runners on base.

The second game proved more difficult for the Tigers. Despite a strong pitching performance by senior Stacy Delaney, the Bilikens also had a strong performance by junior Stacy Gillette, who held the Tigers scoreless for the first two innings. Delaney allowed two runs with three hits and four strikeouts.

St. Louis led after a two-run homerun by junior catcher Nicki Jost. The home run represented the only runs the Bilikens scored in the doubleheader, and was also the first time Missouri has trailed at any point this season. Earleywine was glad the team was able to experience being behind for the first time this year.

"I was glad when we were behind," Earleywine said. "So far, we've been chasing people out of the stadium. Our girls responded well, we needed that."

For an outmatched St. Louis team, Missouri immediately responded, taking the lead back after a two-run single from sophomore utility player Marla Schweisberger, and the Tigers never trailed again.

One player who stood out in both games was junior outfielder Gina Schneider, who went 4-4 with three RBIs and four runs scored across both games. Schneider, who played somewhat sparingly last year, improved her average to .722 after the doubleheader. Earleywine said Schneider has lowered her batting stance, which is helping her "stay on the plane a little bit longer."

The Tigers next travel west to participate in the San Diego Classic, a tournament that will involve playing against elite teams such as UCLA and Oregon.

"We are playing good softball for this early in the season," Earleywine said. "It's a lot fewer mistakes than last year and we are ahead of the curve, but we've still got work to do."

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