Thomas sets strikeout record in Missouri softball team's doubleheader sweep

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | 9:16 p.m. CDT; updated 12:31 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 5, 2011
Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas makes her delivery against Western Illinois on Wednesday at University Field. The team, celebrating Military Appreciation Day at University Field during which military personnel were given free admission, wore gold camouflage uniforms.

COLUMBIA — It looked like another routine strikeout for Chelsea Thomas.

But Thomas' eighth strikeout during Wednesday's game, in the top of the sixth inning against Western Illinois at University Field, was strikeout No. 287 on the year for Thomas, meaning the Missouri record books will have to place her name at the top of another list.

Saturday's game

No. 2 Texas (44-6, 13-2)
at No. 5 Missouri (42-6, 11-2)

WHEN: 2 p.m.
University Field

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The sophomore pitcher passed Erin Kalka's mark of 286 strikeouts from 2004, to claim Missouri's single-season strikeout record while leading the No. 5 Tigers to a 5-0 victory in the second game of a doubleheader against the Leathernecks. Missouri (42-6) won the first game 7-2.

That wasn't enough for Thomas. It was announced Wednesday that Thomas will be joining teammate Rhea Taylor in California this summer to try out for the USA women's national softball team.

"It was crazy," said Thomas, who's dreamed of playing for the national team since she was a little girl. "I was so happy, and I was so emotional at the same time because that's what you work for, from when you start playing softball, to try to compete at the top level.

"Just getting the chance to try out is a great honor for me."

Thomas' selection for the tryouts is especially impressive after she suffered a season-ending wrist injury last year. With her numbers this season — Thomas is 24-4 and leads the nation with a 0.70 ERA — coach Ehren Earleywine said the national team selection committee couldn't pass up on his redshirt player.

"I've told these people, because I know those folks from playing in that organization, I said, 'Look, you do whatever you want to do, but some day she will be the best pitcher ever through the national team,'" he said.

Earleywine knows Thomas and Taylor aren't the only Missouri players benefiting from the selections. He can — and does — gain from their accomplishments.

"That's a big deal to recruits," Earleywine said. "That's a big selling point that a lot of these programs use, is, 'Hey, we've got X amounts of kids that have played on the national team and the junior national team.' As a recruit that's what you want to hear because that's what girls dream about."

As good of a day as Thomas had, Earleywine wasn’t overly impressed with her performance against Western Illinois (19-25). But knowing No. 2 Texas is coming to town this weekend, Earleywine was fine with Thomas not throwing her best on Wednesday.

“Chelsea wasn’t sharp, but that’s a good thing because she’ll be pissed off for Saturday,” Earleywine said.

One of the two goals the team set for itself coming into the season was to win the Big 12 Conference, so Earleywine knows Thomas needs to be at her best against the Longhorns, who currently sit atop the conference standings.

Missouri plays a two-game series against Texas this weekend. The first game is at 2 p.m. Saturday and the second, which will be televised on ESPN, is at noon Sunday.

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