COLUMBIA — Meredith Nash has started just seven games for the Missouri softball team this season and has made appearances in less than half of the Tigers’ games.
But after her double in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Tigers a 6-5 victory over Kansas in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader at University Field, Nash now holds the winning RBI in two of her team’s past four Big 12 victories.
“I just try to get a pitch to hit and hit it,” Nash said of her simplified approach at the plate. “(I) get a strike and hit it.”
Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said he encouraged her to be aggressive and take advantage of pitchers’ tendencies to throw strikes early to pinch hitters.
“I tell her to go up there and get her hacks, and I think that takes the pressure off her,” he said. “I told her if you make an out, so what? So she’s free and easy and she gets her hacks, and every once in a while she runs into one and wins the game for us and that’s huge.”
Kansas tied the game in the sixth after center fielder Rhea Taylor dropped a fly ball that would have been the third out of the inning. After the error, Earleywine removed starter Stacy Delaney in favor of senior Jen Bruck, who had already pitched a complete game in Missouri’s 7-2 victory earlier in the day.
“Stacy pitched well enough for us to win. We just have to make better defensive plays behind her,” said Earleywine, who said he thought left fielder Julie Silver should have caught the fly ball instead of Taylor. “I felt like once they got the momentum, it was not so much that (Delaney) was rattled as much as it was I thought it would be a good momentum stopper if I brought in Bruck and just changed things up. It’s almost like calling a timeout in basketball.”
Bruck allowed a two-RBI single to the first batter she faced, but she did not allow another runner to cross home plate despite allowing the go-ahead run to reach second base in the eighth.
“Honestly, I don’t really get nervous.” Bruck said about the extra-inning game. “It’s just the situation where if they score and they’re better than us, then they’re better than us. But I have confidence in my defense and in me that they’re not going to be better than us.”
Third baseman Lindsey Ubrun had two hits and five RBIs in the doubleheader. The junior leads the team with 53 RBIs, but had just one RBI in eight Big 12 games entering Wednesday.
“The last couple games the team’s really been hitting well,” Ubrun said. “It’s nice when so many people are hitting well, there’s not as much pressure to try and hit well yourself, so that’s good to see. I just try to really relax because it’s hard hitting when you’re all tight and frustrated.”
The sweep of the Jayhawks moved Missouri (39-12, 6-4 in the Big 12) into third place in the conference standings a half-game ahead of Texas. The Tigers will face the Longhorns in a two-game series this weekend in Austin.
Bruck emphasized the importance of the series saying, “We know that we have to win every game from here on out, so I think that’s a lot of our determination right now in the Big 12. We cannot split with anybody, we cannot lose to anybody in order to stay in this race.”