Mizzou Tigers beat Missouri State in must-win game at NCAA softball regional in CoMo

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Facing elimination in the team’s second game of the day, the Missouri Tigers kept their softball season alive by defeating Missouri State 2-0 in the NCAA regionals on Saturday night.

An afternoon that began in the winner’s bracket quickly turned into No. 15 seed Missouri (38-21) playing for its life in the tournament it’s hosting at Mizzou Softball Stadium.

Now it’s a question of whether Missouri has enough pitching firepower to defeat Arizona twice on Sunday, which the Tigers must do in order to win the Columbia Regional and advance to the super regionals.

“Got to win the first game or you don’t have a second game,” MU coach Larissa Anderson said.

The Tigers fell 2-0 to Arizona (35-20) earlier Saturday afternoon as Hanah Bowen delivered her second complete game of the weekend. Jordan Weber pitched five innings for Missouri in the matinee, but Anderson opted to go with sophomore Laurin Krings in the second game.

Krings tossed her second complete-game gem in as many days against Missouri State (28-19), allowing no runs on three hits and three walks while striking out 11. After Friday’s win, Anderson had said that she hoped she wouldn’t have to use Krings Saturday, but that she is always available and could throw on back-to-back days.

“Our big thing going into this game this evening was to play on Sunday,” Anderson said. “To leave everything you can on the field, to compete, to give yourself an opportunity to play on Sunday for a championship.”

In the first, third and fifth innings, Krings struck out a Missouri State batter with runners on first and second and two outs. Each time, it was a hitter at the heart of the Bears’ lineup. Every other inning, Krings retired the Bears in order.

“Just keep the same approach,” Krings said.

It’s likely Anderson will turn to a combination of Weber and Krings on Sunday with the Tigers’ season on the line again. Both will be pitching on no rest, as Krings threw 112 pitches on Friday and another 109 on Saturday night. Weber threw 103 pitches against Arizona Saturday afternoon.

“I was not aware that I was over 200 pitches,” Krings said. “(I’m) a little tired, but I’ll go to treatment and be ready to go tomorrow.”

Missouri’s offense was quiet on Saturday night — a theme for the last three weeks — but the Tigers jumped on Bears pitcher Steffany Dickerson early, and that was enough. Shortstop Jenna Laird opened the game with a triple into the left-center field gap and Brooke Wilmes ripped the first pitch she saw into left for a single to put the Tigers up 1-0 in the top of the first inning.

“You can win the game in the first inning and that’s what Jenna and Brooke did,” Anderson said. “The game is not always won in the seventh inning with the game on the line. They beared down and took advantage of that opportunity. If we can capitalize on those situations then it takes the pressure off our pitchers and the rest of our lineup.”

Kara Daly led off the top of the second with an opposite-field home run over the right-field wall. But that was all Missouri tallied against Dickerson. Since the start of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, MU has scored 12 runs in seven games. MU plans to watch film later Saturday night on the Arizona pitching.

Dickerson, who started all three of the Bears’ regional games, threw 6 2/3 innings against Missouri. The Tigers mustered just four hits against her. Missouri State defeated Illinois before meeting MU in the nightcap, and all three of Saturday’s games in the Columbia Regional ended 2-0.

Missouri and Arizona will play at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Anderson expects the Wildcats to throw Bowen in the circle for game one. If Missouri wins, the two teams would play again immediately following the conclusion of the first game.

“We’re going to play as hard as we can tomorrow for as long as we can,” Anderson said.

Arizona 2, Mizzou 0

Missouri’s reliance on its dominant pitching staff could only carry the Tigers so far in the postseason as they fell to Arizona 2-0 in the first game of the winner’s bracket of the Columbia Regional Saturday afternoon.

For the second day in a row, Arizona coach Caitlin Lowe opted to start Hanah Bowen. The Wildcats were the home team after batting first against Illinois on Friday. After throwing 126 pitches on Friday, Bowen tossed a second complete-game, allowing four hits and two walks on 118 pitches. She lowered her season earned-run average from 4.03 to 3.59.

The game’s only runs came on a two-out, two-run home run by Carlie Scupin in the bottom of the fifth inning. The sophomore now has 18 home runs and 54 RBI this season.

The Tigers have struggled offensively has struggled in recent weeks against some of the top country’s top competition. They have not scored more than four runs in a game since May 1.

In the opening game of the tournament, Missouri’s inability to capitalize with runners on the base kept Missouri St. in the game. On Saturday, the Tigers left six on and struggled to create rallies all afternoon.

The Tigers’ best chance came in the bottom of the sixth after Brooke Wilmes singled and Kendyll Bailey missed a home run by two feet for a double, putting two runners in scoring position with one out. But an Alex Honnold pop-out and Kara Daly fly-out to center field ended the threat. MU also left the bases loaded in the third.

Junior Jordan Weber got the start in the circle for the Tigers and kept MU in the game for five innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out six.

Despite a 78 minute rain delay with one-out in the bottom of the third inning, she returned and kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard. She didn’t record a clean inning all day, but she stranded seven Wildcats on the bases in the first four innings before Scupin took her deep to left field.

Megan Schumacher worked a scoreless inning in the bottom of the sixth, but Missouri couldn’t muster any offense in the seventh.

Missouri joined No. 6 Alabama as the only seeded teams to lose so far in the NCAA tournament.