COLUMBIA — Missouri softball player Gina Schneider struggled with her hitting early in the season. Frustrated, she sought help knowing something needed to be done.
"She came up to me two weeks ago, and she just looks at me like, 'what do I do? I don't want to end my senior year like this?" Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine said Sunday. "Then I said, 'Come on over to the cage, and we'll see what we can figure out.'"
When they got to the batting cage, things went well.
"I came in early and I was hitting by myself, I got out of class early, so I had a chance to come in early before practice," Schneider said. "I said, 'Coach, you got a chance to hit with me?' And he said, 'Well what do you want to do?' I was like, 'I don't know. I got to try something this isn't working.' Then he said 'Well are you willing to scrap everything you have been doing and start something new?' Then I was like, 'I'm willing to do anything at this point, I just want to finish strong.'"
Earleywine showed Schnieder a new batting stance.
"I was pressing too hard on trying to fix my old swing," Schneider said. "I just kept getting tighter and tighter, and it just wasn't working."
Schneider said her new stance is more relaxed. She lets the bat rest on her shoulder, and she relaxes her legs to decrease the distance between her front and back foot, giving her a more narrow stance.
"I told her let's forget about mechanics," Earleywine said. "Just stand up tall, walk into it and swing as hard as you can. I think it's freed her up a little bit."
The new stance has paid dividends for the right-handed hitter. Two weeks ago, Schneider had a .235 batting average much lower than her .321 average last season. Since the change, she has increased her batting average to .258 including hits in four of her past five games.
"I think freeing up her stance has put more juice back in her barrel," Earleywine said.
Against Texas Tech on Sunday at University Field, Schneider hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the third inning to propel the Tigers to a 5-2 victory and a sweep of the two-game series.
Earlier in the season, Schneider started every other day, but since the stance change she has become an everyday starter. She has helped jump start an offense that had been struggling since the start of Big 12 Conference play. But now the team has scored 34 runs in the past five games.
"Are we hitting on all cylinders? No," Earleywine said. "But we are hitting on a lot more cylinders now than we were three weeks ago."
The win improves the Tigers to 32-8 and 5-5 in Big 12 games. Missouri is 4 1/2 games behind Oklahoma State (9-0 in the Big 12), causing Earleywine to scrap the team's goal of winning the Big 12. Instead, he said the goal is to finish near the top of the conference and to receive a favorable seed in the regional tournament.
"We needed to sweep this one, and we need to sweep Iowa State," Earleywine said. "After that we are just going to play as hard as we can and see what happens. It is going to be really hard for us to run the table, I don't know if we are capable of doing that."
The Tigers will play games against Evansville and Missouri S&T on Wednesday afternoon at University Field.