COLUMBIA — Missouri softball pitcher Kristin Nottelmann was like Harry Houdini.
She didn’t escape from a straitjacket, but she got herself out of several tight situations. The sophomore right-hander is gaining a reputation as the team’s escape artist, and that didn’t change Saturday in the Tigers’ super regional opener against Oregon.
Nottelmann (23-7) kept the Ducks’ bats quiet when it mattered most. She got out of a one-out base-loaded jam in the second and induced three straight outs with runners at third and second with no outs in the fifth inning. Nottelmann scattered six hits across seven innings in a 1-0 shutout victory over Oregon (36-20) at University Field in first game of the best-of-three series.
Missouri is now one win away from qualifying for their second-straight Women’s College World Series. The victory makes the Tigers 50-11 this season, tying a school record for wins in a season. The Tigers will play Game 2 at noon Sunday, and if they lose, the teams will play a winner-take-all game afterward.
“They are a good hitting team. They are going to get hits and they are going to get on base,” Nottelmann said. “You just have to go to that next level and really bear down and make sure they don’t get that run across the plate, and it just worked out today that didn’t happen.”
Nottelmann has pitched well with runners in scoring position since the Tigers' last regular season game against Nebraska. She has induced lazy grounders and pop ups and has picked up crucial strikeouts in those situations. Saturday she left eight Oregon runners stranded on base.
Nottelmann has been the go-to pitcher for the Tigers in the absence of former ace Chelsea Thomas who was sidelined with a season-ending wrist injury. Nottelmann has pitched 24 straight innings in the postseason, only allowing three runs in her past four appearances.
“She has been pitching her heart out,” Missouri senior Gina Schneider said. “She’s just bared down and has given it all she’s got. The whole team has been proud of her and what she has done.”
Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said he was concerned about Nottelmann earlier in the season and didn’t think she could pitch in big games. But he admitted that Nottelmann has proved him wrong.
“It’s an amazing thing,” he said. “Two months ago Kristin couldn’t have done that. She did not have the confidence, she didn’t have the courage, didn’t have the toughness, she hadn’t put the time in the bullpen. She has just really developed into a special kid.”
Nottelmann had Earleywine concerned at the beginning of the game. He thought the velocity of her pitches wasn’t up to par, and worried his ace would not be able to finish the entire game.
“Usually her velocity and her effectiveness correlate,” Earleywine said. “When she throws hard her spins are good and her location is good. If I would have told you in the first inning how long she would go today, I would have probably said four or five innings because it didn’t look like she had great stuff.”
Oregon ace Jessica Moore (16-12) stymied the Tigers the majority of the game, allowing four hits and striking out five batters in seven innings. The difference in the game was in the bottom of the fifth inning. Missouri had junior Lisa Simmons at second with two outs. Schneider was at the plate and hit a slow roller towards third base. The Oregon third baseman fired the ball past the first baseman allowing Simmons to score what became the winning run.
“It wasn’t what you would call a pretty win, but it was a win,” Earleywine said.