Missouri Softball Season Preview
COLUMBIA - Missouri Softball will begin its 2014 season ranked 14th in the nation. The Tigers will look to continue their success from last season, where they had their sixth consecutive NCAA Super Regional appearance. It will be their fifth-straight season ranked in the top 15.
Missouri will return five players who started at least 47 games last season and batted over .300. As well as, add a class considered by many softball websites of top freshman.
Two power-hitting Juniors return, in first baseman Kelsea Roth and third baseman/catcher Angela Randazzo.
Last season Roth received SEC All-Tournament honors. She finished last season tied for most home runs on the team, with the third best single season total in Missouri history with 16. She also added 43 RBI's.
Randazzo led the team, and was 13th best in the SEC with 47 RBI's last season. Continued success of these players will be important. Last season the Tigers scored six runs per game, which ranked the Tigers 21st in the nation.
Looking to support those power hitters, are second baseman/outfielder Emily Crane and shortstop Sami Fagan.
Crane, a USA Softball Junior Women's National Team selection, led Missouri, and was 11th best in the SEC with a .376 batting average.
Fagan was forced to sit out all last season after transferring from Florida. In her freshman year at Florida she was named to the Freshman All-SEC team, and hit the fifth-highest in the SEC batting average of .378.
This production will be important for a team that had the 32nd best batting average in the nation last year.
A freshman to look out for is catcher Kirsten Mack. Mack impressed in the annual Black & Gold scrimmage last week, she had three home runs and five RBI's. She's looking to compete for playing time this season with sophomore Carlie Rose.
As for the rest of the lineup, coach Ehren Earleywine said, "There are probably 13 or 14 kids who have significant opportunities at playing time and starting. You'll see a lot of movement in the lineup, especially in the bottom part of the lineup for probably the first 20 or 30 games before we find out whose year it is."
Missouri has an entirely new pitching staff this season, relying strongly on freshmen Tori Finucane and Casey Stangel.
Finucane was the two-time Virginia High School Gatorade Player of the Year, and was an NFCA High School All-American twice. She holds her high school's record in strikeouts. Finucane only allowed one run in seven innings during the Black & Gold scrimmage a week ago.
Stangel won the MaxPreps 2013 National High School Player of the Year award, and was a three-time recipient of the Gatorade award for Idaho Softball Player of the Year. She will contribute both as a pitcher and as a batter.
These pitchers will hope to have success like former pitcher Chelsea Thomas who was a three-time First Team All-American. Led by Thomas, last season's pitching staff finished the season with a combined ERA of 2.30, 32nd best in the nation.
It's the eighth season the Tigers will be under the guidance of head coach Ehren Earleywine. Earleywine has become one of college softball's more successful coaches while at Missouri. He holds a .758 winning percentage, and took the Tigers to three-straight WCWS appearances from 2009-2011.
The Tigers will begin their season playing five games at the Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas. They play Friday, Feb. 14 through Sunday Feb. 16. Missouri will compete against UAB, Iowa, Lipscomb, Drake, and No. 16 Baylor.