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Missouri softball seniors see no end in sight

Friday, May 27, 2011 | 5:09 p.m. CDT; updated 7:49 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 27, 2011

COLUMBIA - On May 15, members of the MU softball team woke up knowing they were on the brink of elimination in the NCAA regional softball tournament.

Senior infielder Catherine Lee said the team wasn’t ready to see its season end early.

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“We didn’t want to go out that way,” Lee said. “We woke up Sunday knowing that this could be the last day we sit out at the tailgate with some of the parents or that we have our pre-game breakfast meal. We thought, it just can’t happen. We’re still going to play for three more weeks.”

The Tigers stayed alive by defeating DePaul twice on Sunday.

With nine seniors in their last season at MU, the close-knit team expressed a desire to play together for as long as it can.  Lee said the team has spent every night together for the past two weeks and compared the team dynamic to a “circle of love.”

“It (the camaraderie) is special,” Coach Ehren Earleywine said.  “And here’s why I think it is. Nine of these kids came in here, and they stuck it out, and they’ve been through highs and they’ve been through lows, and when you do that, you’re going to have some closeness.”

In 2009, the Tigers upset UCLA in the Super Regionals to reach the College World Series, and in 2010 they advanced to the World Series even with pitcher Chelsea Thomas inactive due to injury.  After arriving on the big stage, however, they have failed to win.

“When you’ve gone there twice and you haven’t won, it makes you mad,” Earleywine said.  “It puts a salt in your mouth that you don’t forget, and I think that they’re very determined. They’re on a mission to prove people wrong.”

In order to reach the World Series for a third-straight season, No. 5 seed Missouri must defeat No. 12 seed Washington in a best-of-three Super Regional series at University Field this weekend.  The two teams were set to meet in the San Diego Classic I on February 19, but the game was canceled due to rain.  As a result, the Tigers were just learning the tendencies of their Pac-10 opponent at practice on Friday.

“If we get research, great. If not still great, we’re ready to play,” senior outfielder Rhea Taylor said.

Missouri will take on Washington’s freshman pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby, who has filled the void left by former two-time National Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie.  Inglesby, who posted a 2.26 ERA this season, will take on Chelsea Thomas, a finalist for National Player of the Year award this season.

“We need to put runs up behind Chelsea in order to win these games, and we know it won’t be easy,” Lee said.  “It’s going to be a really great matchup.”

The Super Regionals begin Saturday at 8 p.m. at University Field.  Games two will start at 6 p.m. Sunday, and Game three, if necessary, will be held Sunday at 8:30 p.m.  All games can be seen live on ESPN2 or online ESPN3.com.


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