Posted: Dec 5, 2012 3:11 PM
Updated: Dec 5, 2012 4:16 PM
COLUMBIA -- The Missouri Tiger softball program has finalized its 2013 schedule, and Mizzou will face a challenging slate of foes including 10 schools who made the NCAA Tournament last season.
Mizzou went 47-14 a year ago, and finished just one win shy of reaching their fourth consecutive Women's College World Series. Head Coach Ehren Earleywine will guide the Tigers in his seventh year in the dugout, and he'll field a squad which features senior all-star candidates Chelsea Thomas (P), Jenna Marston (C) and Nicole Hudson (3B/OF).
The Tigers will begin their 2013 season with a 10-game road trip out West, as they'll get things started in Santa Barbara, California at the UCSB Tournament (Feb. 15-17). The next weekend will mark a return trip to the Golden State for the Mary Nutter Classic, held Feb. 21-24 in Palm Springs, where they'll take on 2012 NCAA Tournament teams Maryland, San Diego State and Florida, in addition to two games with Cal-State Fullerton to close out the trip.
Pre-conference tournament action will wrap up the following weekend in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where Mizzou will face in-state foes Southeast Missouri State, Saint Louis, Missouri State and UMKC in the Missouri Breast Cancer Tournament (March 1-3).
Mizzou's first-ever series in Southeastern Conference play will take place March 8-10, when the Tigers host the Texas A&M Aggies at University Field in Columbia, Mo. That begins the conference portion of the season, and the Tigers will host South Carolina (March 29-30), Arkansas (March 12-14) and Tennessee (May 3-5) over the course of the season, while they will travel for SEC road series at Ole Miss (March 15-17), Alabama (April 5-7), LSU (April 19-21) and Kentucky (April 26-28).
Alabama is the defending NCAA champion, while LSU came to Columbia last season and upset the Tigers in the Super Regionals, denying MU a fourth-straight trip to the WCWS. Other SEC schools on Mizzou's schedule who made the 2012 NCAA Tournament include Texas A&M, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Mizzou will not face Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State or Florida in conference play this year, but the Tigers are scheduled to face the Gators in a single game in the Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., on Feb. 22nd.
Sprinkled throughout the conference season will be some interesting games against Illinois (a March 20th doubleheader in St. Louis, Mo.), a three-game series against Georgia Tech in Columbia (March 23-24) and a doubleheader at Iowa (April 17th). Earleywine was the head coach at Georgia Tech for three seasons before coming to Mizzou in 2007.
Conference play will see each of the SEC's 13-teams (Vanderbilt does not field a softball team) play 24 games (eight three-game series). That will lead up to the SEC Tournament, which is set for May 8-11 in Lexington, Ky. The NCAA Regional weekend will be May 17-19, followed by the Super Regional round (May 24-26), and that feeds into the 2013 WCWS, set for May 30-June 5 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.