COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Missouri Tiger softball team came just short of the program??s seventh Women??s College World Series, losing to the Washington Huskies, 1-0, in game two of its NCAA Super Regional matchup. The loss, which brings the Tigers?? season to a close, was in large part due to a strong pitching performance by the Huskies, who threw a combined two-hitter.
Mizzou starter Chelsea Thomas was valiant in the defeat, also throwing a two-hitter and allowing only one run in 7.0 innings. Despite her strong performance on the mound, the Tiger bats fell silent, and Washington, on the back of a Victoria Hayward leadoff solo home run was able to claim victory ?? and a berth in the Women??s College World Series.
Fresh off last night??s eight inning, 2-1 loss, the resilient Tigers looked to pounce on the Huskies early. In the top of the first, following a Nicole Hudson walk, Mackenzie Sykes hit a rocket to deep left center field that seemed destined for the outfield bleachers - only to be robbed by Washington CF Kylee Lahners -- who flashed some amazing leather to pull back the would-be two-run homer. The Huskies then showed some firepower of their own when in the bottom of the first, Victoria Hayward hit a solo home run to deep right which gave Washington an early 1-0 lead. It was all the Huskies needed.
The Tigers best chance to crack the Huskies came in the top of the sixth inning, when Walker??s bid for a no-hitter was broken up after freshman 2B Emily Crane hit a hard line drive back to the mound that bounced off of the Washington pitcher??s glove for a base hit. Senior catcher Jenna Marston then dug in and smacked a laser up the middle to advance Crane, putting runners on first and second.
The sequence forced Washington head coach Heather Tarr into a pitching change and Kaitlin Inglesby came on to the mound in relief. After retiring Hudson on a ground-out, Sykes hit a soft ground ball to third that allowed Crane and Marston to advance. With two outs and runners in scoring position, sophomore 1B Kelsea Roth came to the plate, however Roth was only able to muster another soft groundball that Washington easily disposed of to end the inning.
Mizzou went down in three batters in the top of the seventh inning to send Washington to its eleventh College World Series in program history.
The Tiger's bats were hot all season, especially towards the end of the year, but Missouri Head Coach, Ehren Earleywine, couldn't figure out what happened to his team's offensive fire power in the NCAA Super Regionals.
??I can??t explain it, especially the offensive part of it," said Earleywine. "We??ve swung the bat pretty well all season. We hit well in the SEC tournament, we hit over .300 as a team this season, we probably hit close to .300, maybe even better in the SEC over 24 games. I don??t know the explanation, if I did I would??ve done something to fix it."
The loss brings an end to the storied career of Mizzou??s two-time All-American Thomas, who despite throwing 6.0 innings and holding the Huskies to only two hits, was tagged for the loss in her final game. The often-heroic Thomas walks away from University Field as the Tigers all-time leader in career wins (111).
"I??ve tried to look back on my career the past couple weeks and it??s been more than I ever could??ve expected, said Thomas." "The opportunities that I??ve been given and the people that I??ve met, this University and all of the community support has been unreal and I wouldn??t pick any other place. I??m just very thankful and grateful for everyone that??s helped make my career so successful.??