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Missouri softball hopes for better bounces

Friday, May 29, 2009 | 6:46 p.m. CDT


OKLAHOMA CITY — The Missouri infield was tested Thursday against Arizona State.
It failed.
The Tigers allowed eight infield hits in a 7-3 loss to the defending champions, and their infield is eager for a shot at redemption when they face Georgia in an elimination game Saturday at 11 a.m.
They hope the dirt beneath their feet will be a little more cooperative.
Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine spent much of Thursday's press conference after the loss  grumbling about a bouncy field. After Friday's morning practice, he backed up his case.
"The week before the Big 12 Tournament, they had a monsoon, it rained every day, and they didn't know if they were going to have the tournament," he said. "No. 2, we found out they did put a new surface on the infield. It's the darker stuff on this (practice) field here. You don't put water on that stuff, you've got a trampoline going."
ASU put up 13 hits against Missouri's four. The score could have been worse, with Arizona State leaving 13 on base.
“Coming in I knew the ground was going to be hard like at home," said ASU outfielder Talor Haro. "We had a plan going in so that we can try to hit to the ground and use that to our advantage."
Georgia is no stranger to slapping, either.
Freshman pitcher Chelsea Thomas, known for her drop-ball pitch, lasted just two innings against ASU, giving up six runs. If the field looks the same today against Georgia, Earleywine said he'll have to rethink a few things.
"I think Stacy (Delaney)'s got to go in that situation," he said. "I don't think you're left with any other option. (Chelsea)'s going to get 12 to 15 ground balls a game, and if they're bouncing 15 feet in the air, you're in trouble."
But if there's one thing infielder Gina Schneider doesn't lack, it's confidence in making tough plays. The junior spent much of the season playing different positions in the outfield and infield, then finally got the chance to return to her favorite third baseman spot after the Tigers fell to Oklahoma twice at home in late April.
"It's been a season journey," she said. "I played outfield for the first half of the season, then toward the middle, I started playing short. I would still go back in the outfield sometimes, so I never knew where I was going to play. When the lineup was written, I looked and I was like, OK, that's where I am today."
Schneider said returning to her more comfortable defensive position has allowed her to have better focus at the plate, where she struggled most of last season, batting .109 with only five hits. This year, Schneider is batting second and hitting .331.
"You know, at the beginning of the year, I didn't know what to expect from Gina," Earlywine said. "She was one of the kids, if I were writing a lineup out, I didn't have her in it. It was a pleasant surprise. She's gotten a lot of clutch hits and she's filled in real nicely at third base, and played some good defense for us."
Schneider sat out her sophomore season as a medical redshirt. She had blood clots in her lungs, so she had to take blood thinners and could only bat off a tee. She said she mostly struggled last season when she returned to the lineup because batting in practice wasn't the same as facing pitchers in live game situations, and it took a long time to adjust.
"There's a different mentality you need in a game, and you're supposed to keep it the same," she said. "When I figured out how to keep my mentality the same, as I kept getting hits this year, my confidence kept building."
It will take confidence from each infielder to bounce back today from Game 1's disappointment. But Earleywine said he's not chalking up mistakes to the team being awestruck just to be in the Series for the first time in 15 years.
"Kind of like Super Regionals last year, we're just happy to be at this new step," he said. "And maybe we look back at this and say, that's our mistake, let's learn from it. But sometiems a loss like that (against ASU) will punch you in the mouth and wake you up. I know it would have me, so maybe it did for them, too. We'll see tomorrow."


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