COLUMBIA - Earlier this season, Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine said his team was finding ways to lose.
After starting the season nationally ranked, the team lost four of its first seven games and quickly dropped out the rankings.
“Every game that we played was winnable, and it wasn’t a situation where we got beat,” he said after his team’s first series. “Every game that we lost was a game where we beat ourselves.”
Now, the Tigers (25-6) are finding ways to win. On Saturday, the team routed North Dakota State 9-1 in five innings in the Dan Devine Pavilion for its 17th consecutive victory.
“I have not heard one person utter anything about the streak,” Earleywine said.
The lack of discussion is fine with Earleywine, who has not seen his team lose since Feb. 24 against Washington.
“To me when you’re thinking about (the streak) you’re thinking about results,” he said.
He insists championship teams do not focus on results, but on the process of executing each pitch thrown, making solid contact during each at-bat and completing each defensive play.
Throughout the season, more and more players have produced positive results. On Saturday, left fielder Julie Silver starred, going 3-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
“I think it is important that you have some balance,” Earleywine said. “For a while it was Rhea (Taylor) and Lindsey (Ubrun).”
While Taylor and Ubrun have led the offense for most of the season, Silver’s batting average has hovered around the .200 mark, a year after she was an All-Big 12 selection in her freshman year as a walk-on.
Silver and others such as senior Jen Bruck, who had a two-run single in her only at-bat Saturday, have begun to break out of season-long slumps during the team’s winning streak.
The team has also found balance in its pitching staff. Sophomore Jana Hainey gave up one run in five innings on Saturday, a day after Bruck and junior Stacy Delaney were both credited with complete game victories.
“She had the best outing of the entire weekend,” Earleywine said. “The best part was that she absolutely pounded the strike zone.”
Hainey hit one batter and walked another in the first inning, but didn’t allow another free pass in the game.
The team returns to University Field Sunday to finish the Mizzou Classic. Missouri will face North Dakota State again at 11 a.m. and Wisconsin at 1 p.m.