COLUMBIA — Central Methodist softball coach Pat Reardon did not hesitate to accept Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine's offer to play a doubleheader.
Reardon said his team looks up to the Tigers and jumps at any opportunity to play any Division I school.
"We follow them, and I have a lot of respect for coach Earleywine and his staff," Reardon said.
"I was glad when they called and that Coach Earleywine had enough confidence to bring our team over here. I told these girls all the time, if someone calls me wanting to play whether they're one in the country, 11 in the country, NCAA, whatever, we are going to play them. I'm glad he called us, and I'm glad to be over here."
Missouri (35-8, 5-5) defeated Central Methodist 7-1 Thursday at University Field. The Eagles, an NAIA school, rarely play against Division I teams during the regular season. Thursday was the first time the Eagles have played the Tigers. Reardon has coached the Eagles for 17 years and said his team has never played a team the caliber of the Tigers. He said his team was not intimidated playing a team that appeared in the Women's College World Series last season.
"There is no doubt that there's some hesitation," Reardon said. "A lot of these girls have played against them in the summertime or in high school, so they know them. It's not a whole lot different."
One of the main reasons Reardon agreed to play the Tigers was to bolster his recruiting.
"We'll use it," Reardon said. "We'll say we played Mizzou."
Earleywine can relate to Reardon. He coached baseball for NCAA Division III Westminister College in the mid-'90s, and he too jumped at the opportunity to play Division I schools.
"My guys that played for me didn't remember a lot of their games that they played," Earleywine said. "But the game they never forgot is when we came over here every year to play Mizzou. Being able to play on that type of field with that caliber of a team ... it was a great memory win, lose or draw. It was a great recruiting tool when you could tell kids that you play a Division I school every year."
Despite winning the game, Earleywine was upset with the Tigers' performance. He was particularly upset the score was 3-1 after four innings, and the fact the Tigers only outhit the Eagles 8 to 6.
"It was unacceptable. I thought it was embarrassing," Earleywine said. "We saw an NAIA school's No. 2 pitcher, and got as many hits as we did, and hit as many hard balls as we did. We got to be better than that, and if we're not, I told the girls we are going to get our asses kicked this weekend, plain and simple."
Earleywine had no doubt that the game should have been a blowout.
"You should dominate teams like that," Earleywine said. "That's nothing against Central Methodist, he runs a great program over there. But we're one of the top teams in the country in Division I, and they are an NAIA team. Honestly you should beat those teams 13, 15, 18 to nothing."
Earleywine said he was also displeased with his team's effort and admitted it was hard to motivate the team to play an inferior team.
"Everything you do to convince them this is an important game, they're not buying it," Earleywine said. "They are like, 'This is Central Methodist, I'll walk out here and get three hits whether I care or not. They are going to find out in time, this will humble you. As soon as you think you're a little too good to respect your opponent, and you can just walk out there and flip the light switch on ... as soon as you start feeling like that, this game will grab you by the scruff of your neck and slam you down."
The team struggled to adjust to slower pitches, which reached the high-50's, and had a hard time hitting pitches on the outside corner.
"It showed today that we didn't play like Missouri softball could," Missouri senior Gina Schneider said. "We didn't get as many hits as we should have, and we need to do a better job of that. Their pitcher threw on the outside corner, and we just kept capping them off the end of our bats."
One positive for the Tigers was Missouri pitcher Kristin Nottelmann's performance. She pitched seven innings and got a career-high 13 strikeouts.
Schneider hit her fourth home run of the season, a grand-slam in the fifth to put the Tigers ahead 7-1.
Thursday's competition had been scheduled as a doubleheader, but Game 2 was postponed because of rain. The game will likely be made up Tuesday, according to Earleywine.
The Tigers will play Texas A&M in a two-game series starting at 1 p.m. Saturday in College Station, Texas.