Mizzou Softball Boasts "Partners in Crime"

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri softball team has seen unprecedented success since Ehren Earleywine arrived five years ago. Earleywine has coached the two winningest teams in school history and has led the Tigers to back-to-back Women's College World Series appearances. A big reason behind the success is the pitching of Chelsea Thomas and Kristin Nottelmann.

"We are really comfortable with our pitching staff," Earleywine said. "We feel like we pitch as well as anyone in the country."

Both Thomas and Nottelmann have led the Tigers to the Women's College World Series during the last two years. Thomas took the team to Oklahoma City two years ago as a freshman and Nottelmann did last year when Thomas was injured.

"Both of these kids are very talented and they give you quality innings," Earelywine said. "You are thinking when Kristin comes into the game 'here's our number two' but in fact, she took us to the College World Series last year."

With the return of a healthy Thomas this year, Nottelmann has taken a step back out of the spotlight. Despite the different roles this year, the pitchers went into this season knowing what they needed to do to help the team succeed.

"At the beginning of the season we kinda talked about how we were going to keep each other healthy," Thomas said. "I think that was our main focus...keeping each other healthy for this point in the season and postseason and we did a great job of that so far."

"I'm ready for whenever my role is needed," Nottelmann said. "I'm just keep working in the bullpen and if for some reason something happens, I will be ready to go in. You know I'm not hoping something does but you know you have to keep up, keep sharp and make sure you are ready to go if needed."

And despite the competition between the two, Earelywine doesn't see it affecting the team's success on the field.

"I think they think of one another as more as their partner in crime, you know they are kind of a one two punch type of thing," Earleywine said.

Missouri hopes it can ride its one-two punch all the way back to Oklahoma City for a third straight year. But this year, just getting there won't be enough. This year, the Tigers want to prove they belong among the nation's elite.

"We almost have everyone back from last year so we have a lot of two year veterans that have been there already and have gotten to play," Thomas said. "We've already been there and done that and I think that is going to help this year. We're all going to be more relaxed when we get there and know for sure that we are meant to be there."

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