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MU softball needs help in chase for Big 12 title

Sunday, April 26, 2009 | 7:03 p.m. CDT; updated 12:51 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Missouri's Kristin Nottelmann, left, Jana Hainey, center, and Marla Schweisberger react to their 4-2 loss to Oklahoma on Sunday.

(Clarification: Missouri softball player Micaela Minner did not use profanity during her interview.)

COLUMBIA — As Micaela Minner tried to explain how the Missouri softball team had lost control of its Big 12 Conference championship chances, a couple of words beginning with the letter "F" kept coming up.

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Minner, a sixth-year senior, expressed her frustration multiple times and admitted that the Tigers are in a legitimate funk after being swept by Oklahoma 4-2 on Sunday at University Field.

The loss means the Tigers, who could have claimed the Big 12 title outright with a sweep of the Sooners, now need Oklahoma to lose to Oklahoma State on Wednesday night and a sweep of Nebraska next weekend to split the title with the Sooners. Whatever happens, the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament belongs to Oklahoma.

"We lost because of errors," Minner said. "I know on the scoreboard one error was on there, but we made more errors than it showed on the scoreboard. They didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves.”

At least four balls that bounced off the gloves of Missouri defenders during the game were ruled hits, and Abby Vock's errant throw into the home dugout on a double-play attempt in the third inning allowed a run to score.

"The fact of the matter is there were three or four errors in that game," said Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine. "We just didn’t play good softball.”

As a result, Minner and the No. 10 Tigers were forced to watch as No. 13 Oklahoma celebrated a title on their home field.

“(It's) very frustrating," Minner said. "It’s not like they came out and run-ruled us and beat us even game. We had errors, we gave them the game, so that’s frustrating to have to see that.”

For the second day in a row, Missouri fell behind early, surrendering a run in the first inning and trailing 3-0 heading into the bottom of the forth inning. Freshman Chelsea Thomas suffered the loss, allowing nine hits, walking two and striking out none.

Thomas said after the game that she has still not completely recovered from the right-shoulder injury that kept her out of the circle for a month, but that she believes she will be healthy by the time the Big 12 tournament starts May 8th.

Solo home runs by Minner and senior third baseman Lindsey Ubrun provided Missouri's only offense of the day, but the Tigers had other opportunities to score.

Oklahoma pitcher D.J. Mathis got Minner to pop up to third base with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, a "frustrating" failure for Minner, who slammed her bat into the ground as she returned to the dugout. With runners on first and third in the seventh inning, Mathis forced Kristen Nottelman into another lazy pop up to third base to end the game.

"We’re in somewhat of a funk right now, and it’s kind of bad timing for it," Minner said with a hint of sarcasm in her voice because it's unlikely the team could have picked a worse time up to this point to play some of its worst softball of the season.

With two more must-win regular season games and some lofty postseason goals ahead for Missouri, Minner said she thought it was time for a team meeting and pleaded the fifth about whether or not Earleywine should be in the room.

“There were some things that were brought up after the game," Minner said. " ... We’re just trying to all get on the same page. Losing can bring out different sides of things. It can really open up different areas of what you haven’t seen before, so we were just trying to talk about some of the reasons why we’re in the funk."

The Tigers (41-8, 11-5) haven't had much experience with losing this season. Before their three-game skid, they had won 10 games in a row and had lost back-to-back games only once.

Whatever is ailing the Tigers, Minner said she was "100 percent" sure the team would fix it soon.

“I’d rather be in a funk right now, know that we’re in a funk, get out of the funk, come back next weekend, sweep Nebraska and get ready for postseason," Minner said. "We can put this behind us. This nasty taste in our mouth is preparing us for getting even more hungry for postseason.”

And when Missouri gets there, as it is sure to do, Minner wants another shot at Oklahoma.

"We’ll see them at the World Series," she said. "We’ll be there. If they’re there, we’ll play them again. We’ll beat them.”


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Comments

Bob Smith April 27, 2009 | 2:07 p.m.

The comments by Minner display very poor sportsmanship.

OU had more hits in both games than Missouri. The fact of the matter is that OU was clutch when they needed to be and Missouri choked. Errors are part of the game and OU kept the pressure on the Tiger defense.

Minner should have displayed more fire when she failed to muster a hit with the bases loaded but I guess she just gave the at bat away to OU.

(Report Comment)
Rachel Crader April 28, 2009 | 12:06 p.m.

Bob,

Your comments are certainly welcome here at columbiamissourian.com, but my understanding of her comments as I heard them we're different than yours reading them. She was certainly disappointed in her team's play, as one would expect, but she also gave credit to Oklahoma and specifically to pitcher D.J. Mathis in a quote I did not include in the story. Here is what she said:

"Oklahoma, they're ranked, and she's their starting pitcher for a reason. She's good. She got drafted to play pro ball. She's not a below-average pitcher, so I give her props. She did — she got me to pop up. That was frustrating for me but you know you've got to give credit where credit is due."

As softball fans, let's just hope that these two good teams (and two good players) get to face off again before the end of the season.

-Rachel Crader

(Report Comment)
Rachel Crader April 28, 2009 | 12:36 p.m.

Also, just to clarify, Minner did not swear during the interview as the story will be amended to say. I apologize if that was unclear. The words that kept coming up were different variations of the word "frustration" and "funk."

(Report Comment)

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