Redshirts handle challenges of first season on Missouri softball team

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 11:06 p.m. CDT; updated 10:30 a.m. CDT, Thursday, April 19, 2012
The Missouri softball team beat Western Illinois 8-0 on Wednesday at University Field.

COLUMBIA — This weekend, when the Missouri softball team is in Norman, Okla., battling the Sooners for control of the Big 12 Conference, redshirt freshman Carlie Rose will probably be in one of three places — Nixa, Responsibility Hall or Galactic Fun Zone.

As a redshirt, the Nixa native does not get to travel with the team. She practices with them every day. She dresses with them for home games. But when the Tigers go on the road, Rose either goes home or finds something else to do with fellow redshirt freshman and Responsibility Residence Hall roommate Alyssa Cousins.

Tigers win noncoference game

Missouri (33-8) overmatched its nonconference opponent, Western Illinois (22-20) Wednesday night at Taylor Stadium, trouncing the Bulldogs 8-0 in a run-rule shortened six-inning game.

The night was capped by a walkoff three-run home run by Missouri slugger Nicole Hudson. The home run was her sixth of the season and second in three games. 

Senior pitcher Kristin Nottelmann (11-3, 1.86 ERA) earned the victory, pitching four scoreless innings allowing only one hit while striking out three. She also walked none, an improvement from her last performance against Texas Tech in which she administered three free passes to Red Raider hitters in just 1 1/3 innings

The Tigers' next game will be against Oklahoma at 7 p.m. in Norman, Okla. The Sooners currently have control of the Big 12 Conference, maintaining a 2 1/2 game lead over Missouri.

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“We usually go bowling at Galactic Fun Zone,” Rose said after the Tigers' home game Wednesday evening. “You pretty much just burn a hole in your pocket with places like that because you’re stuck here (in Columbia) in the dorm.

“It’s tough,” Rose said about not being able to travel with the team. “You follow along, but Twitter is just not that exciting. You want to be there with the team. ... You want to know what it’s like.”

Cousins, who, if she isn’t bowling with Rose, tries to get the experience of being there by following the Tigers on an online game tracker. But she said watching the dots move around the screen isn’t quite the same. Although she said she probably gets just as anxious watching her computer as her teammates do in the dugout however many miles away.

The Tigers' third and final redshirt is Taylor Gadbois. But she is in a slightly different situation than her redshirt teammates. She travels with the Tigers serving as an alternate in case someone gets injured.

Gadbois lives with Rose and Cousins in their residence hall, and she says she loves having the opportunity to travel with the team, but she also feels bad that her roommates don’t get the same treatment.

“It’s really hard to go and sit and watch,” Gadbois said of her own situation. “But I think it would be even harder to do that, to watch on a screen.”

But Rose and Cousins don’t seem to have any bad feelings about their situation. Each has used this time not only to develop as softball players but to become closer friends. 

"We’ve bonded a lot because Taylor travels with the team," Cousins said. "Being stuck here, me and Carlie have created a strong relationship."

Both said that they understand why they were redshirted and are optimistic about the future.

“I wasn’t going to shut down to the whole idea of it (redshirting),” Cousins said about coach Ehren Earleywine approaching her with the idea during fall practices. “He told me right before the beginning of the season, and I was like all right, we have a plan."

Rose and Cousins also joined the Tigers knowing the tough situation they'd be going into. They were both recruited as catchers in a class of 10 freshmen. Currently, the Tigers have a bit of a logjam at the position.

Junior Jenna Marston, last season's starting shortstop, is the starting catcher this season. Junior Rachel Hay follows Marston on the depth chart, and freshman Angela Randazzo plays catcher as well. So the playing time available to Rose and Cousins, Earleywine said, would have been limited and a waste of a season of eligibility.

“I told them first and foremost, this is not a slap in the face,” Earleywine said. “This is more of a 'Hey, we think enough of you that your future is bright, and we don’t want to burn a year right now with your development that we could have with you a year down the road with you as a polished player.' But initially sure, it almost feels like you’re getting cut, but it's not that at all. I think later on down the road, they’ll be very happy they did this."

Maybe. But the redshirt designation does not come without hindrances.

Cousins said that she and the other two redshirt players' personal interaction with coaches is limited during both games and practice because the coaches are focused far more on the players that can go out and win games. In order to improve, they have to motivate themselves to go to practice every day knowing that their hard work will not show up in a box score any time soon.

However, none of the redshirts say this is going to hold them back, especially Gadbois whose raw talent and abilities have come through in practice, making Earleywine second guess his decision to redshirt her.

“She is the best athlete on the entire team, not just her class, but the entire team,” Earleywine said. “She’s got the best arm. She’s by far the fastest, and she’s got some pop in her bat. I mean this kid can be electric, but I just did not want to waste a year on developing her because you would really regret that four years down the road. But that kid is going to be so good. There’s been a lot of times (this season), where I’ve looked out there and said my god, should I let her off the leash?”

Thus far, he hasn't, and Gadbois remains on the bench alongside Rose and Cousins where they all share small responsibilities to the team that keep them involved in home games.

Cousins, for example, is mainly responsible for warming up pitchers between innings and in the bullpen. Rose watches and reports on opponents defensive positioning, and Gadbois looks for any hints that a baserunner might be stealing.

They are all looking forward to much bigger roles next season.

"I knew we had three other catchers, two that have great experience already in the game," Cousins said. "And now this gives me an option to not just sit the bench a whole wasted year. Now I get my four years to play."

Gadbois agreed and said all she wants out of this season is to prepare her for her first whole season as a competing player for the Tigers.

"I want what every girl wants, and that's just to be a part of this team — to actually be able to play with them and to be able to say that you played with this girl and you played with that girl," Gadbois said. "I just really want to live up to coach's expectations. I want to live up to my own."

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