OKLAHOMA CITY – With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas found herself looking towards the outfield wall, an unfamiliar circumstance for a National Player of the Year finalist.
Seconds earlier, Thomas’ 2-2 pitch to Florida first baseman Megan Bush was hammered into the bleachers at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. It was Florida’s second home run of the inning against a pitcher who had allowed just seven home runs all year.
No. 9 seed Oklahoma (42-18)
No. 5 seed Missouri (52-9)
WHEN: 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
TV: ESPN HD
RADIO: KTGR: 100.5 FM, 1580 AM
Watch online: ESPN3.com
Turning back towards home plate, Thomas wiped her brow. She had the same look of dejection as she received a new ball from catcher Megan Christopher.
Dejection also summed up the sentiments of Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine, who said he was disappointed that his team failed to play up to its ability in the first round of the Women's College World Series.
"I just feel sad for the girls, sad for the program," Earleywine said. "We've tried so hard to win here and haven't been able to do that yet. It's really hurtful."
Thomas boasted a record of 31-6 coming into the World Series and her 0.83 ERA led the nation. But Thursday, Thomas allowed six runs on eight hits in a 6-2 loss to the Gators.
After defensive miscues in the top of the first inning set Missouri back early, Florida’s three runs via home runs put Missouri in a five-run hole. It proved to be one that Missouri couldn’t hit its way out of.
For Thomas, the errors in the field came as a shock.
"We don't make those types of errors, and it was just abnormal for our team to play like that," Thomas said.
Missouri produced only four hits against Florida’s pitching tandem of Stephanie Brombacher and Hannah Rogers. The Tigers’ only two runs came by way of Lisa Simmons’ RBI double in the top of the sixth inning.
With the loss, No. 5-seed Missouri must win its next game to keep its season alive. Their opponent will be No. 9-seed Oklahoma, who fell to No. 1-seed Arizona State 3-1 on Thursday. Missouri swept a two-game set against Oklahoma in Columbia earlier this season.
Still, after a tough loss on opening night at the World Series, Earleywine isn't sure how to move forward.
"I don't know what to do," Earleywine said. "Even if it's wrong, I usually have a plan. I don't have one."