OKLAHOMA CITY - Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine said he was not completely comfortable in the final inning of Missouri's opening game against Hawaii in the Women's College World Series.
Hawaii came in to the game with an NCAA-record 154 home runs and Earleywine knew it could strike at any time. The Tigers were ahead 2-1 in the top of the seventh until Hawaii's No. 9 hitter Traci Yoshikawa delivered a crushing blow hitting a go-ahead two-run home run off Missouri pitcher Kristin Nottelmann and giving the Rainbow Wahine the lead.
"I looked at the replay and that was a great pitch that Kristin threw," Earleywine said. "The pitch was right on the black on the outside corner and their No. 9 hitter just reached out and got it. Every time they took a swing I knew there was a potential for the long ball."
Missouri could not come through in the bottom of the seventh. The Tigers hit two pop flies and fouled out to end the game, losing 3-2 to Hawaii Thursday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The loss sends the Tigers (51-12) to the loser's bracket where they will play Florida (48-9) Saturday at 11 a.m. Florida lost to UCLA Thursday. The Tigers will need to win their next game to avoid the same fate they suffered last season when they were eliminated after losing the first two games of the WCWS. The game will air on ESPN2.
Earleywine said the team wasted a solid performance from Kristin Nottelmann who gave up three runs, nine hits, one walk and struck out five batters in seven innings of work.
"I actually expected Hawaii to score more runs than that," he said. "I thought it would be a 7 to 5 game. I feel sorry for Kristin because she pitched well against a good offensive team."
Missouri got six hits off Hawaii ace Stephanie Ricketts (30-8), who Earleywine dubbed as a "common pitcher". He said the Tigers were well prepared for Ricketts' pitches but the offense did not come through.
'That was one of the worst offensive performances we have had since I've been here," Earleywine said.
Missouri blew a golden opportunity to score in the first inning when they had the bases loaded and one out. Juniors Catherine Lee and Kathryn Poet came up empty striking out back-to-back ending a possible huge inning.
Missouri junior Rhea Taylor had a solid day at the plate. She went 2-for-4 and tomhawked an eye-level pitch for lead-off home run which put the Tigers ahead 2-1.
Hawaii (50-14) depended on the long ball to score its runs. Angela Aguiree hit a solo blast in the second inning before Yoshikawa dropped a dagger on the Tigers with her two-run homer.