At the beginning of the season, the first goal for the Missouri softball team was to win a Big 12 Conference championship.
After Sunday's game that goal was put further out of reach for Tigers. Missouri, one of the favorites to win the Big 12 at the beginning of the season, was plagued by the long ball. Missouri gave up four home runs to Texas (34-9, 7-1) including three off the bat of Texas' designated player Tallie Thrasher in the Longhorns' 10-2 win in five innings at Austin, Texas.
The Tigers (27-8, 3-5) are now 4 1/2 games back of Oklahoma State (36-7, 7-0), a team that swept the Tigers last week at University Field. Missouri has ten games left against Big 12 teams, but the Tiger's hopes of winning the conference regular season title seem grim.
"I haven't done the math, but it seems we would have to run the table to win it at this point," Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine said by phone. "We are going to have to sweep Texas Tech and Iowa State to at least stay in pretty good position to make it to a regional."
The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning off an RBI single from freshman Jenna Marston. But in the bottom half of the inning Texas scored five runs including a three-run home run from Thrasher to take the lead. Earleywine said the team was never able to recover after the inning.
"We put up a run in the first inning and felt we were in the right mindset to win the game," Earleywine said. "Then they put up a five spot and put us in too deep of a hole to get out of especially facing a pitcher of that caliber."
That pitcher was Texas freshman Blaire Luna, who held the Tigers to two runs in Saturday's game and she did not let up Sunday. She stymied the Tigers again Sunday, striking out nine batters and allowing two runs (one unearned) on three hits. Luna is dominating the Big 12 statistically recording 280 strikeouts and posting a 21-3 record.
Marston had a productive day at the plate going 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. At the end of the game, Earleywine told the team they needed to watch Marston's at-bats because he felt she managed them well. The Tigers had seven total hits in two games against Luna with Marston having four of them.
"She has a good mechanical swing and she swung at strikes 90 percent of the time," Earleywine said. "Some of the other player did the exact opposite and took strikes and swung at balls."
Sophomore pitcher Kristin Nottelmann (8-6) took the loss, pitching one inning giving up five runs on five hits while striking out two batters and walking two.
The loss was the Tigers' third by run rule and they have lost five of their last nine games.