MU softball wins doubleheader to cap 10-game road trip

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | 9:44 p.m. CDT

The Missouri softball team ended its 10-game road trip just as it began it — by winning a doubleheader. Exactly two weeks after beating Kansas twice in a day, the No. 12 Tigers won both games Wednesday at Evansville, Ind., to finish 8-2 on their trip away from home.

Missouri (30-5) got a 7-2 win in the first game against Evansville (7-27) before run-ruling the Purple Aces 9-1 in a five-inning game.

Junior pitcher Kristin Nottelmann (12-1) struck out 10 batters in the first game, while third baseman Nicole Hudson provided the offense. Hudson, a sophomore, accounted for four of the Tigers’ first five runs after hitting a two-run home run in the top of the first inning and then hitting another in the top of the second.

Hudson had a slow start to the season but has been hitting with more consistency in recent weeks. She now sits one home run behind right fielder Ashley Fleming, who leads the team with nine on the season.

“She hasn’t had a great first half of the season, so maybe this is just the statistical probability of not being able to hold a good hitter down for an entire season,” coach Ehren Earleywine said in a phone interview. “I hope so anyway because Hudson is good enough to carry a team when she’s swinging it well.”

Redshirt sophomore Chelsea Thomas carried the Tigers in the second game, giving up one hit and no runs while recording six strikeouts in four innings.

Earleywine pulled Thomas and replaced her with sophomore Lindsey Muller in the bottom of the fifth inning because Thomas had a cracked fingernail. Earleywine said the pitcher had cracked the fingernail during the weekend series at Baylor. It seemed to heal well, but Earleywine didn’t want to push Thomas if he didn’t have to. Still, he made sure she got the win.

“I wanted to get her at least four so she could get the win,” Earleywine said. “She wasn’t thinking like that, but as a coach you want to make sure the kids get all the statistical accolades they can for the awards.”

The Tigers scored five runs on four hits in the first inning of the second game. They added another two runs in the top of the second and the final two in the top of the fifth.

Aside from disappointing losses to North Texas and Baylor, Earleywine said he was content with how the team played during its two-week road stint, though he added that there is room for improvement.

“I’ve been for the most part pleased with the way we’ve been playing,” Earleywine said. “There are some things heading into the second half of the season that are, I don’t want to say concerns, but there are things we’re going to have to address if we want to be a championship caliber team.”

Missouri will be back home this weekend for a two-game series against Texas A&M.

In addition to returning home, the team was also excited to hear that senior outfielder Rhea Taylor was invited to try out for the USA Softball Women’s National Team. Taylor will compete with 20 players at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in June in Chula Vista, Calif., hoping to earn a spot on the 17-person roster.

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