Before the Missouri softball team left to face No. 3 national seed Alabama in an NCAA Super Regional series this weekend, Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said his team had already accomplished an important goal.
“Every year you try to take one more step with your program. Last year we went to the regional final. Now this year we’re moving on out to the super regional, and who knows where we go from here,” he said.
The Tigers, it turns out, will go home for the season after their series with the Crimson Tide, losing 7-1 Saturday at the Alabama Softball Complex in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in the second game of the best-of-three series. The team lost 6-1 to Alabama on Friday night.
The Crimson Tide will travel to its fifth College World Series in nine years next weekend in Oklahoma City.
The losses mean the end of the softball careers of Jen Bruck and Amanda Renth. The seniors, whose names are now scattered throughout the MU record book, will leave as two of the best players in program history, leading the school past the regional round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in 14 years.
The rest of the Missouri roster, though, including seven freshmen who found themselves in the starting lineup this season, most games four or five at a time, will return, making the rest of Earleywine’s plan seem plausible.
“Hopefully next year and the year after we keep snowballing it because eventually the goal here at the University of Missouri for softball is for us to be a regular at the College World Series and to be a Big 12 champ and win national championships,” Earleywine said. “As long as you’re making positive strides toward that every year, that’s really all you can do.”
Bruck started Saturday’s game for the Tigers and did not allow a hit in the first two innings of the game, but two walks and a single in the third inning led to a grand slam by Alabama starter Charlotte Morgan.
“I really think that was the momentum shift and the changing point in the game. Had that not happened and we had attacked and made the plays we were supposed to make, I think we would have had a little bit different scenario there at the end,” said Earleywine in a release.
As they did in Friday’s game, the Tigers scored their only run of the game in their final at-bat.
Andee Allen, who was 2-for-4 in the game, led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and later scored on Marla Schweisberger’s second RBI of the season.
Bruck (17-10) got the loss for the game. She gave up all seven earned runs in four innings.
Renth was 1-for-3 in her final collegiate game. Her only hit came on a single in the bottom of the fourth inning. Renth, who plans to attend graduate school at Missouri, will serve as an assistant coach for the Rock Bridge softball team next season.
The Tigers finished the season with a 47-17 record, which is seven more victories than the team earned last season in Earleywine’s first season at the school.