Freshman leads Missouri softball team in victory over Texas A&M

Saturday, April 9, 2011 | 6:49 p.m. CDT; updated 7:47 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 9, 2011
Missouri freshman Maddison Ruggeberg is batting .400 in 75 at-bats, which is second best on the team for players with at least 10 at-bats.

COLUMBIA — Entering the bottom of the fourth inning, the Missouri softball team's game Saturday felt like a pitching duel. Both sides had combined for just one hit and one run, with Texas A&M leading 1-0.

Freshman Maddison Ruggeberg provided the spark the Missouri offense needed with an RBI double in the third inning that allowed junior Ashley Fleming to score from first base.

Sunday's game

No. 12 Missouri (31-5, 6-1)
vs. No. 20 Texas A&M (30-10, 3-3)

WHEN: 11 a.m.
University Field

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The No. 12 Tigers (31-5, 6-1) put up two more runs in the inning and added three more in the bottom of the sixth to earn a 6-3 win over the No. 20 Aggies (30-10, 3-3) at University Field.

Missouri’s offense struggled before Ruggeberg got the Tigers’ first hit of the game, but Ruggeberg said none of the players were too concerned.

“We have amazing pitchers, and we have really good defense, so we’re definitely not scared or anything at all,” Ruggeberg said. “We know our bats will come around sooner or later, so with those pitchers out there, we feel very comfortable.”

Ruggeberg is a freshman, but she has been one of the leaders on the field. Ruggeberg saw regular action at third base early in the season, and though she wasn’t on the field Saturday, she hit fourth in the lineup as the designated player.

“I’m just trying to play my game and not let anything get to me,” Ruggeberg said. "I guess it’s working so far.”

Ruggeberg’s game has been working well enough that she has appeared in 30 of the 36 games Missouri has played this season, starting in 27 of them. She is also batting .400 in 75 at-bats, which is second best on the team for players with at least 10 at-bats, just behind Fleming’s .404 average.

Ruggeberg’s play has been impressive and surprising. Before the season started, even coach Ehren Earleywine didn’t expect her to do what she has been doing.

“When we did all these interviews at the beginning of the season, everybody asked me, ‘Who should we be looking for? What freshman or what newcomers?’” Earleywine said. “I never mentioned Maddy, and now she’s hitting in the four hole for us and getting these big hits in Big 12 Conference play. I think it just points to the fact that we have good players and we have a lot of good players even on the bench.”

Saturday’s game was the first time this season Missouri played a conference opponent at home. Redshirt sophomore Chelsea Thomas picked up her 16th win of the year. She had a no-hitter going into the fourth inning but eventually gave up five hits and three runs.

“I thought she threw well — I didn’t think she threw great; I didn’t think she threw outstanding,” Earleywine said of Thomas’ performance. “But if history repeats itself, she’s done better on Sundays than she has on Saturdays, and we’re hoping that’s the case. But with that being said, they only got five hits, so that’s not the worst thing that can happen to a team.”

Thomas lost her no-hitter when she gave up an RBI single. As upset as she said she was, she knew her teammates would get it back on offense.

“It’s like a known thing for me," Thomas said. "If I gave up a run, I know they’re going to come through for me and give us a couple.”

Thomas will be back on the mound at 11 a.m. Sunday for the second of Missouri’s two-game weekend series against Texas A&M at University Field.

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