Whenever Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine is at home, he has the team on his mind. Whether he is reading or watching TV, the fourth-year coach jots down different lineup rotations on lineup cards he has lying around his house.
After seeing how his lineup has performed the past three days, Earleywine might be able to save some paper. After getting 23 hits in a doubleheader against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Tuesday, the Tigers got 11 more hits, including home runs from junior Megan Christopher and freshman Nicole Hudson, in a 9-2 victory over Southern Illinois (27-13) on Wednesday in Carbondale, Ill.
"These past three games have been the best 21 innings of at-bats our team has had all year," Earleywine said by phone. "Three or four of our kids have really emerged. I really hope this is a sign of things to come."
Earleywine has tried many lineups this season, but after seeing how well the Tigers have hit the past three games, he said it will likely stay the same for a while. Missouri junior Catherine Lee, senior Gina Schneider, freshman Lindsey Muller and Hudson have come through for the No. 11 Tigers (30-8, 3-5) this week. The foursome have 18 hits in the past three games.
"There is always the potential for Lindsey to go yard when she is at the plate," Earleywine said. "We changed Gina's batting stance, and the ball has really started to jump off her bat. Cat seems real comfortable hitting from the No. 2 spot. Nicole hit a big home run for us today. She is still not 100 percent locked in yet, but she has gotten better as of late. They all had good at-bats, and I am very pleased."
Hudson's batting average has been more than .300 the majority of the season, but she struggled in the middle of the season. The freshman was hitless in eight of her past 12 games going into the team's Illinois road trip. In three games, she got four hits including a 2-for-3 day at the plate Wednesday. Her home run tied her for the team lead at five and was her first home run since March 14 in a game against Bradley.
"It felt really good to finally hit another bomb," Hudson said by phone. "I feel like I'm where I need to be. Their pitcher left a fat one inside, and I took advantage."
Lee came into Tuesday's doubleheader with a .207 batting average. Since then, she has had six hits, and she went 2-for-3 Wednesday with an RBI and a run scored.
Missouri sophomore Kristin Nottelmann picked up her 10th victory of the season in relief, allowing no runs, one hit and striking out three batters in 3 1/3 innings. Senior Jana Hainey pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs (one unearned), three hits and striking out three.
The Tigers play two games this weekend against Big 12 Conference opponent Texas Tech (30-9, 2-5) with the first game set for 2 p.m. Saturday.
"This is the best Texas Tech team we have ever seen since I've been here," Earleywine said. "They have played everyone in the conference close, but we really need to sweep this series."