Missouri vs. Oklahoma State Softball

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STILLWATER, Ok. - The No. 9 Missouri softball team improved to 44-7 overall and 13-3 in conference play with their 5-1 victory over No. 20 Oklahoma State on Thursday. The game was a makeup of the rainout on May 1, and the win helped the Tigers move within a half-game of first place Texas.

In the first inning, senior Rhea Taylor became just the second player in the history of the Big 12 Conference to post 300 career hits. Taylor laid down a bunt back to the pitcher and legged out a single to start the game.

Oklahoma State jumped ahead in the bottom of the first on an unearned run, taking advantage of a throwing error by Nicole Hudson. Mariah Gearhart led off the inning with an infield single, hitting a chopper into the hole between third and shortstop. Ari Morrison then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move Gearhart up, but on the play Hudson double-clutched and overthrew Ashley Fleming at first base, allowing Gearhart to advance to third. Alysia Hamilton then hit into a fielder's choice, scoring Gearhart and putting the Cowgirls up 1-0.

Missouri answered back in the top of the second with a two out rally, capped by Lisa Simmons' second home run of the season. Maddison Ruggeberg hit a bouncer back up the middle and into center field with two down to keep the inning alive, and Simmons followed by hitting a liner that was just high enough to get over the wall in right field, giving Mizzou the 2-0 advantage.

The Cowgirls had a shot to put more runs on the board in the second after a base hit and wild pitch put the leadoff hitter on second base with no outs, but Chelsea Thomas worked out of the jam by getting a pop out on a bunt attempt, a strikeout and a groundout to keep Tamara Brown at second base.

Mizzou tacked on two more in the top of the third to cushion their lead to 4-1. Abby Vock drew a leadoff walk and Taylor reached on an error by the second baseman, putting the first two batters on. A fielder's choice wiped out Vock but kept runners at first and second with one out. Hudson hit a high pop fly into shallow right that dropped in for a double, scoring Taylor on the play. Ashley Fleming then followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in center field, allowing Jenna Marston to score the second run of the inning.

Thomas worked out of another jam in the top of the third after the first two Cowgirls reached on singles. Thomas got Alysia Hamilton to foul out for the first out of the inning, but a full count walk to the next batter loaded the bases. The Tiger ace was able to get out of it with two straight swinging strikeouts, keeping Mizzou's three-run lead intact.

A pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Kathryn Poet in the top of the fourth put Missouri up 5-1, as she scored Simmons, who led off the inning with a bunt single and moved to second on an overthrow on the play. Megan Christopher bunted Simmons up to third ahead of Poet, who drove in her seventh RBI of the year.

From there on out, Thomas settled in and finished things off for the Tigers, allowing just one baserunner - a walk - over her last four innings. She went the distance, throwing all seven frames with eight strikeouts, two walks, one unearned run allowed and four hits.

Simmons and Hudson led the way with two hits apiece. Simmons scored twice and drove in a pair, while Hudson brought home one.

If Mizzou sweeps Iowa State this weekend, the worst they can do is gain a share of the Big 12 championship. If Texas falls to Baylor on Sunday and Missouri sweeps, the Tigers will be outright champions. Game one between the Cyclones and Tigers starts at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday.