Missouri softball player Chelsea Thomas kept getting good news Wednesday.
The Tigers' redshirt pitcher picked up her 18th win of the season in a 7-2 victory over Northern Iowa. She struck out 10 batters, walked none and gave up just one earned run in four innings. With 10 strikeouts, Thomas eclipsed the season's 200-strikeout mark, bringing her total to 207.
And after pummeling the Panthers, Thomas learned she'd been named as one of the 25 finalists for the 2011 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award — announced just before the Tigers' game began. Thomas, a sophomore, said making the list was never even on her mind this season.
“I wasn’t on the watch list at all, so I wasn’t even thinking about it,” Thomas said. “But it’s really such an honor.”
A watch list — with 50 potential player-of-the-year candidates — was released before the start of the season. Two of Thomas' teammates, shortstop Jenna Marston and outfielder Rhea Taylor, were on that list; Thomas is the only Tiger to make the top 25.
“I’ve known that to happen before, but you have to do something pretty significant not to make the top-50 list, but then to be on the top-25 list,” said coach Ehren Earleywine. “It’s really neat, so I’m very happy for her.”
As if she needed any other good fortune on Wednesday, Thomas, who is from Pleasantville, Iowa, got to reunite with family and friends at the game.
“I had about 20 family and friends there, so it was really fun to get to see them,” Thomas said. “And my parents got to eat dinner with us after the game, so it was really fun.”
No. 9 Missouri (33-5) put on a good show for Thomas’ family and friends, with 13 hits against Northern Iowa (23-18).
Third baseman Nicole Hudson and designated player Catherine Lee each had a three-run home run. Junior pitcher Kristin Nottelmann picked up her third save of the season, allowing just one hit and no runs in the final three innings of the game.
The Tigers return home this weekend for a two-game series against No. 14 Oklahoma. The game Saturday, at 3:30 p.m., will be televised on Fox Sports Network; the game Sunday, at 3 p.m., will be televised on ESPN.