COLUMBIA – By 4:30 p.m. Sunday, all the chattering, singing and dancing that engulfed University Field over the weekend had come to an abrupt end.
All you could hear coming from the previously rowdy Kansas softball team was the scuffling of their shoes on the pavement leading up to the bus, eager to take them back across the border, a safe 164 miles away from the team that had just swept them out of Columbia.
Senior pitcher Kristin Nottelmann (6-2, 1.56 ERA) threw a complete game in the second matchup of Sunday's doubleheader against Kansas allowing no runs on two hits with seven strikeouts. Flemming launched her team-leading fifth home run of the season, a two-run blast, in the sixth inning of the second game of the doubleheader to give the Tigers a 9-0 walk-off run rule victory. Flemming's four hits during the doubleheader pushed her team-leading batting average to .391. Junior leadoff hitter Jenna Marston is second on the team in batting average, hitting .387.
The Missouri Tigers dropped the boisterous Kansas squad in three straight shutouts (10-0, 5-0, 9-0) emphatically putting an end to the Jayhawks' 20-game win streak and administering to them a heartfelt "shhhh."
Getting their first three wins in the Big 12, two of which came on Sunday in a doubleheader, was important to the Tigers and coach Ehren Earleywine, but similarly satisfying was shutting up the raucous Jayhawks.
“Do I enjoy beating them?” Earleywine asked himself. “Absolutely. They’re so flamboyant. I don’t know if you were here early before the game, but they’re singing and chanting and it is everything about the game that I dislike.”
Earleywine showed Kansas exactly how he felt about them on Friday night, the first game of the series, when with a 7-0 lead late in the game, he aggressively directed his hitters to bunt and his runners to steal bases, classic signs of disrespect, which he called "sending a message."
“I would never do that to anybody other than a rival or a team that I did not like,” Earleywine said.
The Tiger players offered no apologies for their coach’s actions, appearing as pleased with quieting down the Jayhawks as Earleywine was.
“The whole situation of cheering and stuff probably irritates him more than it does us,” senior Ashley Flemming said. “But the way they do it, its a little excessive. It gets to the point where you just want to shut them up.”
Earelywine, a former baseball coach, much prefers the quieter professionalism that many baseball teams practice as opposed to the rah-rah enthusiasm that traditionally surrounds softball.
He prefers it so much that he and his team have begun to eliminate some of the more standard softball cheering routines, like the whole team celebrating home runs by meeting the batter at the plate to congratulate her.
“There’s a lot of different levels of greatness, and I thought the next level was not celebrating every single time we hit a home run,” Earleywine said. "When the major leaguers start getting out of the dugout, we will too.”
Junior pitching phenom and team leader Chelsea Thomas (10-1, 0.59 ERA) agreed with her coach saying that she and her team believed that it is their job to hit home runs. They expect to hit them, so there’s really no reason to celebrate them.
Like Kansas probably would have, had they hit any against Thomas or her teammates.
Thomas, who pitched 9 ⅓ scoreless innings in two appearances against the Jayhawks over the weekend, is normally very soft-spoken, but she did not mince words when describing how she feels about no longer seeing Kansas once the Tigers move to the SEC.
“They are not my favorite team to play. I’m glad to send them off with a three-game series like that,” Thomas said.