One concern Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine had going into Sunday's doubleheader against No. 2 Arizona was the team's ability to put the ball in play.
Last week, when the Tigers played Alabama, their batters struck out 29 times in three games, with 22 coming in the first two games. In Sunday's doubleheader the Tigers were able to make more contact with the ball, and they struck out 16 times, which resulted in the Tigers (3-2) splitting the doubleheader against Arizona.
"I think that we are right where we need to be," Earleywine said by phone. "I was content with our ability to put the ball in play, but there is still room for improvement."
In Game 1, Missouri got shutout for the second time this season losing 5-0. The Tigers were only able to get two hits, and it struck out nine times to Arizona's ace Kenzie Fowler (5-0). Earleywine said Fowler used the velocity of her pitches to overpower the Tiger hitters.
"We were just overmatched," Earleywine said. "I think she will be an All-American this year."
"She was very good at hitting the corners of the plate," Missouri catcher Megan Christopher said by phone. "I just kept falling behind in the count, she's just good."
In the first inning Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas struggled. She surrendered two walks, before giving up a three-run home run to Arizona first baseman Baillie Kirker. Kirker got two of Arizona's three hits in the game and drove in all five runs. Thomas only pitched 1 2/3 innings before she was relieved by Jana Hainey, who pitched the rest of the game. Hainey gave up a two-run home run to Kirker in the fourth inning.
The second game saw the Tigers score 10 runs on 11 hits to defeat Arizona 10-5. Earleywine emptied the bench and used all his players except Hainey.
The Tigers scored five runs in the first inning, two in the second and three in the third. Chelsea Thomas also started Game 2 and was the winning pitcher, giving up five runs and striking out four batters in four innings.
"We were just able to take advantage of a lesser pitcher," Earleywine said. "We could have easily went out there into lull and lost again, but we were able to maintain the enthusiasm we had going into Game 1."
Marla Schweisbeger led the Tigers in Game 2, going 3-for-4, with a two-run home run in the first inning. Christopher, who leads the Tigers with 7 hits, also had a solid performance. She went 3-for-3 with two RBIs.
"I think most people didn't think we would have a winning record right now playing quality teams like Alabama and Arizona," Earleywine said. "Getting experience against teams like this invaluable. I think we are in pretty good shape."
The Tigers will travel to Columbus, Ga. next weekend for the NFCA 2010 Leadoff Classic. The team will play five teams in three days starting with No. 3 Michigan and Virgina Tech on Feb. 26.