The past few weeks, the Missouri softball team's offense has been nearly unstoppable scoring five or more runs in its past 13 games.
The Tiger offense seemed to be in a prime position to continue that streak against a Nebraska team that had the third highest team ERA in the Big 12 Conference (3.31 ERA).
Saturday it didn't happen that way.
Missouri was held to only four hits in a 5-2 loss against Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. The loss ended Missouri's seven-game winning streak.
"Today wasn't our day today," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said by phone. "If you watch the Cardinals or the Yankees there are days where those teams will sputter. It just happens, you know, it was going to happen eventually."
Nebraska sophomore Ashley Hagemann (14-12) is the first pitcher to hold Missouri under three runs since Texas pitcher Blaire Luna did it one month ago. Hagemann used her rise ball effectively and got Missouri hitters to chase pitches outside the strike zone. She pitched a complete game, striking out seven Tigers hitters. Missouri (43-10, 10-7) drew four walks but were unable to take advantage, stranding six base runners.
Missouri had a chance to take the lead in the third inning. Nebraska was ahead 3-0 before Missouri junior Catherine Lee and freshman Jenna Marston had a pair of RBIs to cut the Cornhuskers' lead. The Tigers had runners on second and third when freshman Nicole Hudson hit a long fly ball. The shot normally would have been a home run, bit it got caught by wind blowing towards the field and ended up landing in the glove of a Cornhuskers outfielder for the final out of the inning.
In the past three weeks, the Tigers have depended on their offense to win. Missouri averaged 8.4 runs per game in its past 10 games and surrendered 3.7 runs in that same span.
"To expect your offense to score eight or more runs every game is absolutely ludicrous," Earleywine said. "We have been scoring so many runs lately it makes you forget about your pitching and defense. Our offense has saved us a bunch of times, but you have to give them a break once in a while. Our offense has covered up the runs our pitching has given up the last few weeks, and it was exposed today."
Missouri senior Jana Hainey (9-2) took the loss, giving up all five runs, seven hits, and two walks. Hainey struggled throwing her changeup inside the strike zone, allowing Nebraska hitters to sit on her harder pitches.
"We would call for an inside pitch and it would be thrown outside, and we would call for a low pitch and it would be high," Earleywine said. "You cannot do that against Big 12 teams."
Missouri junior Rhea Taylor will likely win the Big 12 batting title with a .442 batting average. Her 18-game hitting streak was snapped Saturday when she went 0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored.
"She had a tough day today," Earleywine said. "She has done a tremendous job for us and has gotten hits for us when no one else could. She can't do it every day."
Missouri will play at Nebraska (29-25, 7-10) again at noon Sunday.