COLUMBIA — Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine has a good idea who the first six hitters will be when the Tigers play their first games of the season next weekend in Troy, Ala.
As for those final three spots, a number of women are competing.
“I feel like there are eight kids that deserve the seven, eight and nine slots, and I want to just rotate them every game and let those kids have the same opportunity,” Earleywine said. “One through six, I feel pretty comfortable. Seven-eight-nine, I’m kind of spinning around.”
It's no secret why Earleywine is taking time putting his lineup together — half the team is new faces.
Earlywine brought in 10 freshman to make up for the departure of 11 players from last year’s Big 12 Conference championship team. After a little more than a month of practice, mostly indoors, he is still learning the makeup of his team.
At Saturday's Black-and-Gold inter-squad scrimmage at the Devine Pavilion, he had a good opportunity to analyze his team in game-like conditions, but he wasn’t going to make any definite decisions based on one practice game.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Earleywine said. “There’s no final conclusions just because we played in front of a few people.”
The coach doesn’t expect to have the lineup until about 25 or 30 games into the season, but that didn’t stop him from talking about some of the younger players.
One freshman he penciled in as the starting second basemen, Ashtin Stephens, could miss a good part of the season with a torn labrum in her hip. He was especially impressed with Corrin Genovese from East Amherst, N.Y., who had good at bats during the scrimmage against Missouri’s "All-Everything" pitcher, Chelsea Thomas.
“I think you guys are just going to love (Genovese),” Earleywine said. “She makes everything look easy. She makes every play. She gets up there against Chelsea, and she looks like she’s a senior. She just wears (confidence) up there. I wish my whole team was like that. Kids like that win championships.”
Genovese started the game for the Black team at second base and hit at the lead-off position.
The Black team beat the Gold team 8-0. Senior outfielder Ashley Fleming hit a solo home run in the ninth inning of the inter-squad game while senior Kristin Nottelmann was the winning pitcher, striking out eight batters in six innings. Thomas took the loss, giving up four runs, one earned, over six innings.
Earleywine's teams have made it to three consecutive College World Series. It plans on making it again, so getting the lineup set in early February is not really a priority.
"It doesn't matter where we're at right now," Fleming said. "As long we're at the place or better than where we were last year come postseason time, that's where we want to be at."