COLUMBIA — Every year before the season starts, Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine has a lot of reading to do. He sifts through 100 letters and 1,000 e-mails from girls who want to be a Tiger.
“We recruit girls based on character,” Earleywine said. “Do they still cheer for their teammates after making an out? Do they hustle? We have so many girls that want to come to MU, we have the luxury of being picky, and those are the type of things we are looking for.”
For Earleywine, freshmen Nicole Hudson and Jenna Marston are two players who fit the type they look for. It will be a challenge for both players to transition from playing high school softball to the college level, but Earleywine expects them to be major contributors in the upcoming season.
“I am 99 percent sure that they will start this season,” Earleywine said.
Marston said her transition was smooth and a valuable learning experience. It showed in her first at bat at the Black and Gold softball game Saturday. As she awaited the pitch, she looked relaxed. When she hit the ball it shot off her bat and it ricocheted off the wall in Devine Pavilion for a double.
“I have been waiting for this for a long time. It felt pretty good to get out there and play,” Hudson said. “It’s pretty big shoes to fill after last year. I am learning more from them (her teammates) every day. I would like to be a starter, but I will do what I can to make this a successful season. “This is definitely a step up from high school, but it is everything I could have hoped for.”
Earleywine said the most important thing that the freshmen players need to learn as the season goes on is to just stick with it. He said the major thing they need to get used to is the length of the season. This year the team will play 53 games during the regular season with the first 15 games on the road.
“At the high school level it’s more like a sprint but at the collegiate level, there will be some points where they don’t play as well as they think they should, but they will have to realize that there will be some point that it will all come together,” Earleywine said.
Marston said she is looking forward to playing for the Tigers, which she called a championship level team. She said the coaching staff and the other players on the team made the transition to playing at the college level easy.
“It’s fun playing at this level and playing for a national championship caliber team,” Marston said. “We all get along well, and they (the team) show each other a lot of support.”
Marston went 0 for 5 in the Black and Gold game while Hudson went 2 for 5 with a double and a single. The game lasted 10 innings, and the black team won 4-3 on a go-ahead double from Ashlie Ortega in the 10th. The team will play its first game on Feb. 13 against No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.