COLUMBIA — Jen Bruck has begun to find her stride both on the mound and at the plate, and the MU softball team has lost the ability to lose.
Bruck earned a complete-game win and hit her eighth home run of the season Friday night as the Tigers defeated North Dakota State 6-3 at University Field in the first game of the Mizzou Classic.
The Tigers also defeated Wisconsin on Friday to give them their 16th consecutive victory.
In the seven games leading up to Friday’s match-up, Bruck increased her batting average from .175 to .233 and doubled her season hit total from seven to 14.
“I think the difference between the beginning of the season and now is I’m not so focused on my mechanics and all that,” Bruck said. “I mean, when it’s game time you just (have) to hit. That’s what I’m trying to focus on, just see the ball, hit the ball, and keep it as simple as I can.”
After North Dakota State scored three runs in the third inning when they benefitted from a walk and an error by shortstop Abby Vock. Bruck responded not only by retiring the final two batters of the inning but also by hitting a three-run home run in the next half-inning.
MU coach Ehren Earleywine was impressed by Bruck’s performance.
“It’s great because you’re always worried about pitchers who hit,” he said, “because you wonder if this kid pitches bad is she going to hit bad or if she hits bad is she going to go out and pitch bad and take that out to the field with her. But she was resilient in that regard and bounced back and did the job the next inning which is what you have to do as a competitor.”
Earleywine also acknowledged the team’s winning streak.
“No doubt everybody knows we have a streak,” he said, “but 100 percent, honestly, it’s not really a big deal for us. We really just want to play well each time out, and we critique our shortcomings after each game and try to figure out how we can get better. If we lose along the way, we lose.”
Senior Amanda Renth, who hit a home run in both games Friday, outlined the reasons for the team’s success.
“The things that we have been doing well, for one, is playing defense,” she said. “The way we beat a lot of teams is play defense and we did a pretty good job of that today. (Our) pitchers throw a lot of strikes, and the other thing (we do) is grind out runs, however we do it, whether it is a bomb or taking some walks here and there and putting the ball in play.”
Earleywine has been critical of his team’s play at times this season but optimistic about its potential. However, with Big 12 conference play just a week away, he seemed satisfied with their progress.
“I think they’re playing good softball,” he said. “I think there are still things that we can get better at, but they’re playing good. I’m happy for them that they’re enjoying it because it’s always fun when you’re winning. Everybody’s in a better mood, and I’m happy for them that they get to experience these wins and get some confidence.”
The round-robin Mizzou Classic will continue tomorrow with MU facing North Dakota State at 1 p.m and Wisconsin at 3:15 p.m.