COLUMBIA – It looked like the scorekeeper at University Field must have made a mistake. After four innings, Minnesota had one hit. Missouri had none.
In the fifth inning, sophomore Nicole Hudson got a base hit, finally giving Missouri its first of the game Sunday afternoon. But Tigers’ high-powered offense, which had put up 35 combined runs over its previous four games in the weekend’s Wilson Classic, remained scoreless.
An inning later, junior Ashley Fleming gave the No. 13 Tigers (22-3) their second hit of the game, launching a two-run home run to right field, driving in sophomore Jenna Marston, who had walked.
“I knew it was definitely out for sure, it was just a matter of if it was going to stay fair or not, so that’s all I was hoping for,” Fleming said. “I was watching it all the way down the line because I knew it wasn’t going to stay in play, so I wasn’t running it out or anything. I was just hoping it would stay fair.”
Missouri wouldn’t score again, but it wouldn’t matter because redshirt sophomore Chelsea Thomas ensured the Tigers’ 2-0 win against Minnesota (18-13). Thomas struck out 12 batters and gave up two hits without walking anyone.
“I love pitching wars,” Thomas said. “Nothing better than having that feel of the highest competition…It’s a lot of fun.”
As much as Thomas says she loves pitching against the best competition, her teammates love seeing her on the mound even more. Fleming said she knows Missouri's offense, and defense, doesn’t have to do too much to get wins when Thomas is pitching.
“As long as we can score a couple runs, we’re going to win a majority, if not all, the games,” Fleming said. “To be honest, when I’m in the outfield, I don’t even think they’re going to score. And if they do score maybe one run, then I’m thinking we had to score to win anyway. Hopefully most games we’re going to be able to score two runs at least.”
Thomas, who won her ninth-straight outing Sunday, has given her teammates every reason to be confident in her. In 14 appearances this season, Thomas has given up five runs, one of which was unearned. She had a streak of 43 consecutive scoreless innings snapped Saturday by Western Michigan (4-18) in a game that was postponed due to weather and finished earlier Sunday afternoon. Missouri won 10-1.
The entire Missouri team, from the pitchers to the bottom of the batting lineup, seems to have that same confidence, which coach Ehren Earleywine admitted can border on arrogance. He’s fine with that though.
“I think they’ve chosen to be confident,” Earleywine said, “even when they’ve had bad games. Good, bad or otherwise, this team can be pretty cocky, and that’s a good thing in many ways. So I think confidence is something that we have a lot of going into conference play.”
On Wednesday, Missouri goes to Kansas riding a 19-game win streak. After saying for weeks it has been ready to start conference play, the entire team is excited Big 12 play is finally here.
“We’re so ready,” Hudson said. “Especially to lead off with KU. And to go to KU…we’re just really excited to put the hurt on Wednesday.”