Missouri softball sweeps despite indoor woes

Saturday, March 20, 2010 | 8:24 p.m. CDT; updated 9:25 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 20, 2010
Missouri sophomore pitcher Kristin Nottelmann throws in the first of two games against Northern Colorado on Saturday at Devine Pavilion.

COLUMBIA — The ball jumped off Missouri junior Megan Christopher's bat, and she started to trot to first base. The ball looked like it was headed to a gap in the outfield, but a sudden clank let Christopher know the ball had hit the ceiling of the indoor complex and she was quickly called out by the home plate umpire. She stormed to the Tigers' bench, slamming her bat to the ground and tossing her helmet against the backstop.

"It is a nice option to have," Christopher said. "But I have never been a fan of playing indoors."

Instead of playing at University Field on Saturday, the Missouri softball team played in Devine Pavilion, an indoor facility the team normally uses for practice during the winter. Snowy weather caused the change and rearranged the playing schedule for the Demarini Invitational. The Tigers delayed games by two hours and played Northern Colorado instead of Northwestern.

Saturday's games marked the first time the team has played indoors this season. The No. 3 Tigers (21-3) won two games, defeating Eastern Michigan 9-0 in six innings and Northern Colorado 8-0 in five innings.

Despite the results, it was clear most of the Tigers don't like playing indoors.

Missouri pitcher Kristin Nottelmann pitched against Northern Colorado and felt the effects of the change. The humidity of the indoor complex caused her hands to become sweaty and her normally effective rise ball suffered and flew out the strike zone on numerous occasions. She took a chalk bag to the mound to help her dry her hands, wiping them on the bag after every pitch. But she still had problems keeping her pitches under control, and she issued three walks.

"I don't feel like I did well at all today," Nottelmann said. "I have always struggled playing indoors. I just couldn't get a good grip on the ball. It (the bag) didn't really help."

Devine Pavilion is designed more for football than softball. The artificial turf is marked like a football field, and there was a goal post sitting in the back of the stadium. The 30-yard line and the out-of-bounds line to the left of the plate served as a marker for foul territory and a portable plastic fence served as the left and center field wall. A white arrow was placed on the right field wall, and when a player hit the ball above the arrow, it was ruled a home run.

"There are a lot of things that are wrong with it," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "I personally don't like it, but hey, playing indoors is better than sitting at home watching Oprah."

Bright lights hanging from the ceiling made it difficult for players to spot fly balls, and Christopher, the Tigers' catcher, said she had trouble with the turf and was unable to get comfortable throwing behind home plate.

"My throws were off, and everyone knows my throws are perfect when we play outdoors," Christopher said. "The lighting in here is horrible, and it makes it tough on our outfielders to catch the ball."

Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas was one of the few not affected by the change in venue. In the first game, she threw her second no-hitter this season, striking out 10 batters and walking three.

All-American Rhea Taylor went 3 for 3 in the first game, scoring one run with two RBIs. She also stole two bases, which brings her within one of tying the school record.

The Tigers will play their final game of the Demarini Invitational at 2 p.m. Sunday against Ball State.

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