Missouri softball sweeps overmatched Missouri S&T

Finding quality opponets to fill the schedule has been a struggle for Ehren Earleywine.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 10:02 p.m. CDT; updated 10:36 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 15, 2009

COLUMBIA — According to Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine, his team wasn't ready to play Wednesday.

It was probably looking forward to its weekend conference series and didn't play smart softball.

But, then again, it didn't really need to.

Missouri easily defeated Missouri University of Science & Technology, a NCAA Division II school, in both games of a doubleheader at University Field. The Tigers  won by the run-rule in both games, taking the first game 10-2 in six innings and game two 6-0 behind Jana Hainey's shutout.

Beating up overmatched opponents isn't Earleywine's idea of strategic scheduling.

“Nobody will play us, and that’s just the truth," Earleywine said, before firing off a list of teams within driving distance that he tried to schedule. "Drake, Wichita State, Arkansas, Illinois, Southwest Missouri State, Southeast Missouri State,  UMKC and on and on and on. Team’s won’t play (us)."

NCAA softball teams are allowed to schedule up to 56 games a year, but the Tigers will only play 52 games this season.

"I can’t even fill our schedule," Earleywine said. "I don’t know why it is, but people aren’t wanting to come over here and play.

“I suggested home-and-home (series), and all I get in e-mail responses is, 'We’re not interested in playing, check back with me next year.'"

Maybe his team has gotten a little too good. Tenth-ranked Missouri is 38-5 overall and in the top 10 nationally in batting average, team ERA and scoring. The team is 8-2 and alone in first place in the Big 12, one of the toughest softball conferences in the country.

“I have no idea," Earleywine said, when that theory was suggested to him. "You can write that stuff or whatever you want to write, but they just won’t play."

Whatever the reason, Earleywine was left scheduling Missouri S&T out of desperation and is now without a nonconference opponent left on the schedule.

"You kind of like something during the middle of the week to see live pitching and to get some game action," he said, noting that the week off between its final two conference series. "I’m concerned about that, maybe we'll intrasquad or something, but that’s usually not quite the same.”

Missouri's final eight games will be played against Big 12 competition. After traveling to Texas Tech to play two games this weekend, the Tigers will play their final three conference opponents at home.

Sixth-year senior Micaela Minner said isn't worried their seven-game winning streak or a title run just yet.

“That’s definitely not a pressure thing and it’s definitely not talked about," Minner said. "We don’t talk about it in the dugout. We don’t talk about it in the locker room. We’re just playing ball every game.”

Minner, who went 3-for-4 in game two with three doubles and three RBI, said she wouldn't be watching the conference standings in the coming weeks.

“In the end it’s not about the other teams," she said. "It’s just about how well we’re playing, so if you you’re trying to keep up and trying to keep up, you get lost in trying to keep up instead of playing the games.”

It was never about Missouri S&T on Wednesday.

“Our main focus was not them. Our main focus was us," Minner said. "We do our best, we win.”

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