COLUMBIA – You probably could have cut the tension at the end of the Missouri softball game with a spoon.
The Missouri crowd, it seemed, waited until two outs in the seventh inning to acknowledge what Chelsea Thomas was doing: The All-American was throwing a no-hitter against Big 12 rival Oklahoma State.
Thomas' no-hitter Friday night against Oklahoma State was her first against a conference opponent, and it was one of her last chances considering Missouri is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next season.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead when junior Lindsey Muller launched a two-run home run off Oklahoma State pitcher Simone Freeman in the second inning.
The victory puts Missouri (41-12, 15-7 Big 12) two wins away from clinching second place in the Big 12, leapfrogging Texas A&M and falling in line behind Oklahoma.
But for the crowd at University Field, nothing unusual was happening.
The Missouri faithful rose to their feet when Thomas was one out away from clinching the no-hitter, but when she threw out the final runner at first to seal a 4-0 victory, the stadium's decibel level mimicked a standard Tiger win.
Maybe Thomas has spoiled her fans with seven no-hitters and three perfect games in her career, along with a combined perfect game with Kristin Nottelmann. Maybe a 12:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio just doesn't impress them anymore. Maybe after 75 days since her last no-hitter, a perfect game against Washington on Feb. 25, it was about time she threw another one.
It wasn't just the fans. The players and the coaches treated it casually, too.
No one came running to the mound to hug Thomas after the final out. No one tried to lift her up on their shoulders and carry her off the field. No one put a whip cream pie in her face during her postgame interview.
Her coach, Ehren Earleywine, even sounded a little disappointed after the game.
"I told Chels, the dilemma there, as a pitcher trying to throw a no-hitter, is do I continue to try and throw a no-hitter, you know, and raise my pitch count and pitch around people and try strike people out, or do I just get on cruise control since we're winning four to nothing, and get some easy outs and maybe give up a hit?" Earleywine said.
"I would have rather she just laid it in there to be honest," he added. "She's got enough no-hitters and nobody really cares about another one."
That was clear Friday night.
But maybe the nonchalance surrounding Thomas' no-hitter is a greater compliment than if the crowd had gone crazy.
Thomas has done almost everything you can ask from a college softball pitcher — except lead her team to a national championship.
The Tigers are two games from postseason play. Maybe Missouri fans are saving the applause for something Thomas hasn't done before.
Supervising editor is Tony Schick