OKLAHOMA CITY — Missouri waltzed into the Women's College World Series as the only unseeded team in the tournament, and was the first team ousted with a 5-2 loss to Georgia on Saturday afternoon.
For the Tigers, the day didn't go how they envisioned it.
“We didn’t get here by accident," right fielder Marla Schweisberger said. "We played some tough teams and we were really confident in ourselves. ... We felt like we could hang with these teams. It just didn’t work out and maybe we can build on it for next year.”
Missouri won a school-record 50 games this year, and had beaten No. 2 seed UCLA in the Super Regionals to advance to the Series.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "We didn’t come here just to come here, we wanted to win some games and make some noise."
Missouri did little to pull itself together against the Bulldogs, but the Tigers did catch a few breaks.
Georgia pitcher Christie Hamilton was called for an illegal pitch in the second inning. The second base umpire noticed her toe hitting the chalk line while she was coming off the rubber, which moved Andee Allen to scoring position at second with two outs.
But Marla Schweisberger struck out looking to end the threat.
In the top of the fifth, Schweisberger popped a foul ball behind the plate. Georgia catcher Kristyn Sandberg couldn't get to the ball, having collided with the umpire and both of them rolling to the ground. Schweisberger ended up getting hit by a pitch, and Missouri started the inning with a runner on.
Megan Christopher and Katie Miles fouled off more than 12 pitches between the two of them. But Christopher popped it up and Miles struck out. Rhea Taylor made it on with a walk only for Gina Schneider to fly out to shallow center field.
"Overall, we’re playing with a lot of girls that weren’t recruited by too many schools," Earleywine said. "I’m proud of the job that they have done. No one would really expect a group of kids that weren’t recruited like they weren’t to be able to make it this far. ... Even though we are all very disappointed, there’s no doubt about it, we wanted to win.”
A two-run home run by Sandberg in the bottom of the fourth made it 3-0 and sealed it for the Bulldogs, who advanced to face Michigan late Saturday.
Freshman Chelsea Thomas (16-7) started in the circle for the Tigers, going four innings with one of the runs unearned. Stacy Delaney came on in relief in the fifth after a walk, a hit batter and a wild pitch led to a double to bring in Georgia's final two runs. Delaney silenced the Bulldogs' bats with three strike outs in two innings of work.
"We went with the decision to go with our ace and gave her another chance," Earleywine said. "As a coach, you always want to lose with your ace on the mound. The thing that Georgia did well today was that every time they had an opportunity today they made it click. They got three hits and five runs. That’s what you call timely hitting."
Missouri finally got on the board in the sixth when Schweisberger hit a bloop single to center, scoring Kathryn Poet and Michaele Vock.
While Georgia faced reporters with grins, Missouri tried to hold back sniffles and couldn't hide tear-stained cheeks. The Tigers wanted more, but they said the experience was worth the disappointment.
"Making it here, unseeded, beating UCLA in the three-game (Super Regional) series," designated player Micaela Minner said. "This has been one of my lifelong dreams. I’m not just a little kid watching on TV and wishing I could be there. I was actually here.”
Liz Manring, a Missouri School of Journalism graduate, now writes for the Sierra Vista Herald in Arizona.