No. 7 Mizzou Softball Outlasts No. 5 Florida in 12 Innings
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - No. 7/7 Mizzou topped No. 5/5 Florida in extra innings on Friday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, winning 4-3 in the 12th inning when a game-clinching RBI single was dropped into left field by senior 3B Nicole Hudson. Tiger pitcher Chelsea Thomas threw the complete game (12.0 IP), recording a career-best 19.0 strikeouts and allowing zero earned runs.
The Tigers improved to 8-0 overall with the victory, while the previously unbeaten Gators dropped to 15-1. The win was seventh-year head coach Ehren Earleywine's 296th as Mizzou's leader.
Missouri's first breakthrough in the contest came by way of freshman OF Sarah Moore in the bottom of the third inning. Moore launched a home run over the right center field wall to open the game's scoring at 1-0 to the Tigers. Hudson continued the scoring with a one-out double to bring in junior utility player Mackenzie Sykes who had reached on a Florida fielding error.
Gator starting pitcher Lauren Haeger worked 4.0 innings, surrendering four hits, two runs (one earned) and walking one in the no-decision.
Up until Florida's own two scored runs in the fourth, Thomas (4-0) had struck out four Gator batters. The two-time All-American Tiger then heated up, striking out another 15 batters from the fourth inning to the final 12th inning.
The Tigers had a chance for runs in the bottom of the fourth inning with a leadoff double by freshman 2B Emily Crane but no other action from Mizzou batters. Crane finished 2-for-4 with one RBI on the day, which was also her birthday.
Crane's RBI proved to be pivotal, as the game sped into the 11th inning (international tie break rules) with no scoring between the two sides. Florida's Hannah Rogers, who had replaced Haeger in the lineup, scored from third base on a Tiger fielding error, setting the score at 3-2 to Florida.
In Mizzou's turn at the plate, Crane smacked a sharp flyball that turned into an effective sacrifice to bring in sophomore 2B Ashtin Stephens who had pinch run for sophomore 1B Kelsea Roth at second base.
Thomas did her part again to start the 12th inning, recording two strikeouts and forcing a groundout to get the Tigers back to the plate.
With sophomore OF Kayla Kingsley starting the 12th at second base, Moore put down a sacrifice bunt to get her teammate over to third base. Earleywine dialed up a squeeze bunt attempt for the speedy Sykes, but the play resulted in Kingsley being thrown out at third base.
Allowed to swing away with two outs, Sykes smoked a double to deep right center field. Senior catcher Jenna Marston followed Sykes by receiving an intentional walk from UF's Rogers (6-1). Sophomore SS Corrin Genovese then legged out an infield single to keep the inning alive. It was then time for Hudson's scorcher to left field to score Sykes and end the marathon game, 4-3.
Mizzou now heads to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Feb. 23 for a double head (4 p.m. and 6 p.m.).