COLUMBIA — A day after a disappointing loss to Texas Tech in its first game of the Big 12 Conference tournament, the Missouri softball team gathered Sunday night at the Clinton Club inside Mizzou Arena to see if it would get a second chance at a championship run.
As expected, the Tigers were granted an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and will travel to Iowa City this weekend to compete in the tournament’s regional round. Missouri will be joined by host Iowa, Creighton and No. 16 Long Beach State.
“I think the best description of it would be deep but not top heavy,” MU coach Ehren Earleywine said. “I don’t think there’s a team in there that we can’t beat, but I don’t think there’s a team in there that can’t beat us.”
The records of the four teams back Earleywine’s suggestion that the regional opponents are similar. Missouri, the second seed in the region, has the best overall record at 44-15 while fourth seeded Creighton (43-15) and third seeded Iowa (40-18) have also reached the 40-win mark. Long Beach State, the region’s top seed, was 39-15 this season on its way to the Big West championship.
Earleywine was pleased his team would remain in the Midwest for their regional tournament.
“There is something for driving instead of flying (because of) the whole jet lag thing and having you’re legs in that first game. I’m looking forward to a five- or six-hour drive as opposed to flying half way across the country. There’s no doubt about that.”
Both Earleywine and Tiger second baseman Andee Allen said the team would briefly review the mistakes that led to it loss to the Red Raiders before focusing on the future.
“I think the main goal is focusing on us and what we can improve, because that’s the only thing that we can control,” Allen said. “Defense has always been sort of a weakness this year, so I’m sure we’re going to work hard on defense.”
If the team can eliminate the mistakes that have plagued it in its biggest games this season, a berth to the super regionals is possible, Allen said.
“Obviously we’re going to have to play good ball, but I think we got a good regional,” she said. “Hopefully we can make something out of that.”
Missouri will begin play in the double-elimination tournament against Iowa at 7:30 p.m Friday.