OKLAHOMA CITY – With an unexpected elbow sprain to Oklahoma catcher Katie Norris, senior third baseman Dani Dobbs was called upon to start behind the plate in an elimination game against No. 4 Missouri. For Dobbs, it was her first start at catcher in her four years in college.
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said the decision to start Dobbs behind the plate was based on character and willingness.
“Who wants to catch?” Gasso recalled asking her team. “And Dobbs was the first one to step forward. Dani is just a gritty competitor, and she just looked at me like, ‘Let me do it; let me do it.’”
When Missouri senior speedster Shana White entered the game in the second inning as a pinch runner at first base, Dobbs faced a tough test. After a walk advanced White to second, White took a large lead toward third base.
White took off. Dobbs’ throw soared into left field, and White sprinted home to provide Missouri with the go-ahead run.
As it turned out, Dobbs’ error was just the beginning of a mistake-filled afternoon in the field for No. 9 Oklahoma. All of Missouri’s runs in its 4-1 victory came by way of defensive errors.
After moving her usual third baseman behind the plate, Gasso was forced to move freshman Ali Vandever to third base. With a new third baseman, catcher and several other defensive switches, a sixth-inning rundown between third base and home plate proved costly for Oklahoma. Nicole Hudson scored on the play for Missouri.
“I felt pretty good when I saw how early she (Dobbs) tried to throw it to third,” Hudson said. “I was still halfway down the line, maybe even a little bit closer to home plate. So I just took off, and about the time I broke home I realized there wasn’t anybody there (at home).”
The win is Missouri’s first in Women’s College World Series play under coach Ehren Earleywine after two winless appearances in 2009 and 2010 and an opening loss in Oklahoma City this year.
Earleywine said his first win at the World Series serves as a relief, especially after Thursday’s opening loss to Florida.
“It’s a good feeling for sure,” Earleywine said. “It’s hard to explain how bound up I felt after the last game. It’s a good feeling to know that we can win against a really good team.”
The win also extended the careers of nine Missouri seniors, including All-American centerfielder Rhea Taylor. Following the win, she said another winless trip to the World Series would have been unacceptable.
“We just weren’t about that this year,” Taylor said. “We just made up our minds that we had to forget about losing to Florida and come out today and play our best softball. I think it was supposed to happen.”
With the win, Missouri faces elimination again tonight against No. 11 Baylor. Earlier this season, Missouri split a two-game set against Baylor in Waco, Texas. Tonight's game gets under way at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.