Missouri softball freshmen thrive in Tigers' two wins Friday

Friday, March 9, 2012 | 8:13 p.m. CST

During the opening weekend of the 2012 softball season, a scary thought flashed across Tigers head coach Ehren Earleywine's mind.

A lack of productivity from the 10 freshmen on his 20-person roster caused him to panic.

"The first weekend we played, they were just nonexistent," Earleywine said. "I was thinking, 'oh my gosh, here we go. I recruited the wrong kids.'"

Three weeks later, Earleywine's doubts have been largely erased as his freshmen contributed to two run-rule wins in their first games at University Field on Friday in the DeMarini Invitational. The No. 12 Tigers defeated Alcorn State 14-1 and Boise State 8-0 to improve their record to 12-3. 

Between the two games, the freshmen who played went 9-for-18 at the plate. 

The Tigers' offense was sparked by four home runs over the two games, including a two-run blast by freshman Kelsea Roth. 

Roth, Missouri's starting first baseman, entered Friday's doubleheader leading the team's starters in batting average and on-base percentage and batted in the cleanup spot for both games. 

"It's kind of intimidating because I'm batting between two of the best hitters on the team, but they're supporting me," Roth said.

Senior Ashley Fleming, who had a home run of her own in the second game, said the clubhouse atmosphere has been transformed from last season, when the Tigers had nine seniors.

"In a way, it's a good thing," she said. "Everybody talks about how we haven't done good at the World Series the last three years. Those girls, they look at it as, we've done good. We've made it to the World Series the last three years."

Although Missouri dominated both games Friday, Earleywine said he was glad to be able to give playing time to some non-starters.

"These weekends, the common fan would go, 'What are you getting out of this?'" he said. "But for me, I get to see a whole lot of things.

On the mound, senior Kristin Nottelmann threw five scoreless innings against Alcorn State, while redshirt junior Chelsea Thomas pitched a one-hitter against Boise State. 

Missouri is set to play the same two teams Saturday. The Tigers will play Alcorn State at 12:30 p.m. and Boise State at 3 p.m.

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