COLUMBIA – From an outsider's perspective, Missouri softball's Friday night 2-0 loss to Texas Tech could be seen as a disappointing, but not a back-breaking loss. The Red Raiders have been giant-killing as of late, splitting four games with No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 5 Texas last week.
But if you were to look at it with a slightly broader lens, this loss to the No. 5 team in the Big 12 could cripple Missouri's chances of winning the conference.
The Missouri offense appeared over-matched by Texas Tech's Brittany Talley who dominated the Tigers allowing only one hit and walking none.
Chelsea Thomas pitched a complete game Friday night surrendering two earned runs allowing six hits and four walks while tallying 11 strikeouts in seven innings.
After clawing their way back into the Top 10 of the ESPN.com/USA Softball ranking for the first time since the beginning of the season, the No.9-ranked Tigers are sure to fall back below 10 after losing to the unranked Red Raiders.
Friday's defeat marked the first game beyond the halfway point in the Tiger's 24-game conference schedule. The loss drops them from No. 2 to No. 3 in the Big 12, sitting at 9-4, two losses behind conference-leading Oklahoma (34-5, Big 12 10-2) and one loss behind Texas (33-5, Big 12 7-3).
Oklahoma has two more games against No. 14 Texas A&M, whom they walloped Friday night 6-1, and then the Sooners' next three series are against Missouri, Texas and last place Iowa State. The Sooners' series against the Tigers and Longhorns will take place in Norman, Okla., where the Sooners are 13-1.
And then there is Texas, No. 2 in the Big 12, who still has 14 conference games remaining. Keeping pace with them seemed much easier last weekend after the Tigers took two of three from the Longhorns.
But as Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said after Friday night's loss, when his team loses to someone it's not supposed to, such as Texas Tech, it's like giving one of the big wins against Texas right back.
"Anytime you have a good game or a good weekend, you have to do everything you can to protect those wins in your next conference matchup because otherwise it's for naught," Earleywine said.
"I mean, you went down there and you did a fantastic job of winning two out of three (against Texas), but when you don't show up against Texas Tech, it's as if it never happened ... It takes everything you did down in Austin, it just kind of spits in its face."
The Tigers' loss to Texas Tech does nothing but add pressure for every conference game Missouri has up until the Oklahoma series. Going into Norman three or more losses behind the Sooners would put the Tigers in a must-sweep situation. Friday's losing pitcher, Chelsea Thomas, is hopeful some things will go the Tiger's way.
"Things are going to happen that you wouldn't expect to happen," Thomas said, referring to the loss to Texas Tech. "We just got to do what we can control and that's winning the next two games."
The first of those next games will be Saturday against Texas Tech. It is scheduled for 2 p.m. at University Field. Earleywine would not name a starter for the game.