Missouri softball team collects doubleheader sweep

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 | 10:05 p.m. CDT; updated 7:24 a.m. CDT, Thursday, March 22, 2012

COLUMBIA – With tarp tracks still visible on the edge of the outfield grass and a less than packed University Field, the Missouri softball team extended its winning streak to 17 on a wet and gloomy Wednesday evening.

Around 3 p.m., it didn't look as if any softball was going to be played, but the forecasted storm held off, giving the No. 10-ranked Missouri Tigers enough time to sweep both games of the doubleheader against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Tigers run-ruled the Hawkeyes the first game 8-0 and shut them out again 2-0 in the second to end a tidy three-hour evening.

Just more than 500 fans witnessed Iowa become the latest victims of a hot Missouri pitching staff. The Tigers updated their scoreless innings streak to 54 1/3, shutting out teams in eight consecutive games.

All-world junior pitcher Chelsea Thomas (11-1) extended her scoreless inning streak to 45 1/3 with five one-hit innings, breaking her personal record of 43, which she set last season.

Yet, despite all the record breaking accomplished by his team Wednesday night, Coach Ehren Earleywine was not the pleased manager that you might expect.

Earleywine was noticeably perturbed while speaking with the media after the game. He said he thought his team came out lackadaisical, calling a majority of the runs scored in the first game gifts from the overmatched Hawkeyes. He said his batters, not just in this game, but in past weeks, were being "bailed out" by the superb work of his pitchers.

"The thing that bothers me the most was there was no energy, just no enthusiasm," Earleywine said. "You should look like you're having fun. You know, you're 20. You don't have a job. Softball is a fun sport.

"Thank god our pitching carried us, but there is going to be a time and place where that is going to end. Some hitters are going to get to our pitchers at some point or another, and I'm concerned our hitters won't be able to answer the call. A lot of the runs that we've scored recently have been freebies."

Even with his team's impressive winning streak, Earleywine said he has not settled on a lineup and the players that have been starting recently shouldn't get too comfortable in their positions.

One way Earleywine likes to try to improve his team is to play with the lineup a little bit on Wednesdays, against nonconference opponents, in order to see what kind of talent he has sitting on the bench.

"I'm constantly looking for an edge," Earleywine said. "I'm constantly looking for a better team, and Wednesdays are a great opportunity for me to do that. And if we lose, we lose. You lose the battle, but you win the war.

"But I was just disappointed today. Some kids who had opportunities looked like they didn't care, and some of the kids who start and play every day acted liked that position is theirs no matter what, and that's never the case with me."

The Missouri team's next opportunity to impress their coach will be this weekend when they head to College Station, Texas, for a three-game series against No. 21 ranked Texas A&M (20-8). This will be Missouri's second conference matchup this season following their three-game sweep of Kansas last weekend. Missouri's (22-3, 3-0 Big 12) Thomas will throw the first game of the series against Big-12-innings-pitched leader Mel Dumezich (12-5) who is also second in the conference in strikeouts (144).

NOTES: Senior pitcher Kristin Nottelmann (7-2) threw a complete game shutout in the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader, striking out eight batters giving her 58 on the season. The Tigers stole three bases in the doubleheader, making them an efficient 43-for-47 on the season. Senior outfielder Ashley Flemming tacked on three RBIs in the first game of the series, extending her team-leading total to 21.

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