Tigers win, but Missouri ace suffers stress fracture

Saturday, March 27, 2010 | 9:44 p.m. CDT; updated 9:56 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 27, 2010

No. 3-ranked Missouri softball stopped Oklahoma 11-5 Saturday without ace Chelsea Thomas, who missed Saturday's game with a stress fracture in her right wrist.

Thomas will be re-evaluated Monday to determine whether she can return to action this season, according to Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine.

Box Score

"Hopefully we will be able to get her back on the field within the next two weeks," Earleywine said. "It does change the dynamic of our team not having our ace, but we have a good program and we will go out and keep fighting."

Earlier in the season, Earleywine said he was going to depend on Thomas, a sophomore, to pitch the majority of Big 12 Conference games. He is still hopeful that she will return this season. But if she is unable to return, Earleywine said that Missouri will attempt to issue her a medical redshirt so she could retain three more seasons of eligibility. Thomas missed much of the Big 12 season last year with a bicep injury.

Going into Saturday's game against No. 13 Oklahoma (26-8), Earleywine had some concerns about the offense. There were times in the season were he said the offense was inconsistent, but Saturday in Norman, Okla., the Tigers may have put those concerns to rest.

In their Big 12 Conference opening game, Missouri (23-3) overcame a 5-0 deficit scoring  and eight runs in the second inning defeating Oklahoma 11-5.

"I was really proud for our team not giving up," Earleywine said by phone.

Oklahoma left-handed pitcher Keilani Ricketts created match-up problems for the Tigers. The Tigers who are accustomed to start many left-handed batters had trouble hitting the freshman. In the fourth inning Earleywine began filtering in some of his right-handed hitters and the Tigers began to manufacture runs after the adjustments.

"Ricketts is very tough on left-handed hitters," Earleywine said. " We have a lot of depth and we are able to suck the life out of our opponents by matching up kids with certain pitchers based on their style of hitting. We just have a lot of kids that can do a lot of different things."

Six of the Tigers' 11 runs were scored off two three-run home runs  by junior Catherine Lee and sophomore Ashley Fleming. The strike zone was wider than the Tigers were accustomed to, causing the hitters to become more aggressive.

"I was looking for anything near the middle of the plate," Lee said by phone. "She hung one in the middle of the plate and I hit the home run."

In the sixth inning, the Tigers took advantage of three Oklahoma errors. After the Tigers' scored their fourth run Oklahoma took out Ricketts and put in Kirsten Allen who had a 1.58 ERA coming into the game. Allen did not record an out. Seven straight Tigers reached base, two by errors, and it was capped off by Fleming's home run to put the Tigers ahead by six runs.

"There is no mystery that Oklahoma is a good team," Lee said. "We didn't lose our focus and it was a great feeling beating a good team like Oklahoma. This is where the season really begins and time for people to step up and get the job one.

 In Thomas' abscense, pitchers Jana Hainey, Lindsey Muller and Kristin Nottelmann combined to pitch seven innings giving up two earned runs, three walks, and striking out seven batters.

Missouri will play its second game against Oklahoma Sunday at noon.



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