COLUMBIA – Darkening skies, light rain and tornado watches put the ending of Sunday’s NCAA regional softball competition at University Field in doubt.
But senior Rhea Taylor’s two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning put Missouri up 8-0, and sophomore Chelsea Thomas quickly retired three straight DePaul batters to end Sunday’s final game early in a run-rule shortened six innings.
A day after guaranteeing DePaul (41-15) wouldn’t beat No. 4 Missouri (50-8) again, Thomas essentially shut down the Blue Demons herself to help the Tigers advance to the NCAA super regional round next weekend.
In Sunday's two games, Thomas gave up just two hits in 13 innings. In the first game, Thomas gave up one run on four hits in Missouri’s 7-3 win. DePaul’s two other runs came against Kristin Nottelmann, who faced three batters in Sunday's first game, and gave up three hits and two runs.
In the second game, Thomas was nearly perfect. She walked just one batter, struck out four and did not allow a run or a hit. Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said the most impressive part was that Thomas didn’t even throw that well.
“She just did not have good velocity today,” Earleywine said. “But the dropball got a lot of groundballs, the changeup was effective, and we’ve still got to get the riseball a little more crisp. But it’s amazing that she’s able to not pitch her best and still get a no-hitter."
After falling to DePaul 2-1 in 11 innings on Saturday, Missouri had to beat the Blue Demons back-to-back in order to advance to the next round of postseason play. Watching Missouri tally up run after run Sunday made it hard to believe that same team had only produced one run against DePaul the day before.
“We lost that long game and we had to refocus and regroup as a team and come back for two tough games today,” Thomas said. “I think it was a test for us, and we passed it pretty darn well.”
In the two games, the Missouri offense racked up 17 total hits and scored 15 total runs against the Blue Demons. Taylor led the offense with two hits and four RBIs in the first game, and three hits and two RBIs in the second game. With a home run in each game, Taylor matched her regular season total of two home runs in just one day.
“I’m a senior, and I didn’t want it to be my last time playing,” Taylor said. “So I just needed to stop thinking and just do what I do. That’s pretty much all that got into me today.”
Missouri, seeded fifth in the tournament, will host Washington, the 12th seed, in the super regional round. The first game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday at University Field. Sunday's schedule is a little more complex because of television scheduling, but all games will air online at ESPN3.com.
If the Tigers beat the Huskies in the three-game weekend series, they will advance to the Women’s College World Series, which will be held from June 2 to June 8 in Oklahoma City.