Fleming's Walkoff Homer Sends Mizzou to Regional Finals
COLUMBIA -- With one swing of the bat, Ashley Fleming put Missouri into Sunday's Regional Championship with a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth, lifting Mizzou to a 1-0 win over DePaul.
The two teams battled to extra innings for the second year in a row, as the Blue Demons defeated Mizzou by a 2-1 score in 11 innings in game three of the 2011 Columbia Regional. This time, the Tigers bested DePaul to improve to 45-12 on the season, while dropping DePaul to 36-21 and one game away from elimination.
Chelsea Thomas outlasted DePaul's Kirsten Verdun, throwing nine shutout innings while striking out 10. She didn't issue a walk and gave up only five hits to improve to 25-7. Verdun fell to 27-14 with 8.0 innings of work, giving up the one run on seven hits with five strikeouts.
After giving up a single in the first, Thomas settled in and struck out the next two to end the first inning. She got three 4-3 groundouts in the second and struck out the side in the fourth on just 10 pitches.
Mizzou had an opportunity to break the tie in the fourth after putting two in scoring position with one away. Jenna Marston singled to left with one out and Ashley Fleming followed with a base hit to center. The center fielder bobbled the ball on the play, allowing Marston to take third and Fleming to move up to second. However, Verdun got Kelsea Roth to pop out and struck out Nicole Hudson to end the frame.
In the fifth, DePaul lead off the inning with a base hit and moved the runner over on a sacrifice bunt. However, Thomas worked a strikeout and a pop out to leave the runner in scoring position.
Missouri hit a couple of balls to the warning track in the sixth inning but neither team put any runs across, sending the scoreless tie in to extras.
The Tigers wasted a leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth off the bat of Kayla Kingsley, her second hit of the game. She took second on a sacrifice bunt but Verdun got out of the inning with a ground out and a pop out.
In the bottom of the ninth, Fleming ended it with one swing, sending her 16th home run of the year over the wall in right field to give the Tigers the win. The blast was Fleming's 43rd of her career, tying her with Amanda Renth for second all-time.
The Tigers will play Sunday at 2 p.m. CT, needing just one win to advance to their fifth straight Super Regional.