COLUMBIA– In the end, Missouri's two-run home run in the sixth inning didn't mean a whole lot to the outcome of its 6-0 win against Illinois State Friday night.
The Tigers already had a three run lead going in to the bottom of the sixth of their opening game of the Columbia regional tournament and Chelsea Thomas had yet to allow a Redbird to cross the plate. So extending the lead from three to five wasn't all that important.
Missouri's starting pitcher Friday night, ace Chelsea Thomas, pitched six scoreless innings. The Big 12 Pitcher of the Year allowed only two hits and improved her record to 24-7 and her ERA to a team-leading 1.04.
Senior outfielder Ashley Fleming continues to be Missouri's most consistently productive hitter. Her two-run double in the first inning gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. She finished the day 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Six of the seven active freshman on Missouri's roster made an appearance in Friday night's game, including four starters. The two to come off the bench were Bailey Erwin who pitched a perfect seventh inning in relief of Thomas, and Angela Randazzo who had pinch hit RBI single in the sixth.
What was important was who hit it.
Freshman first baseman Kelsea Roth is a player Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine has been waiting on all season to get hot.
"She's capable of putting the team on her back and driving in a lot of runs," Earleywine said after the Tiger win. "No better time than now to start getting comfortable."
About a month ago, Roth was coming off of a Texas series in which she went 2-for-9 with four strikeouts. Despite her struggles, when Earleywine was asked which offensive player would be the key to his team making a sustained run into the postseason, he hardly hesitated before saying Roth's name.
"Man, when we were down in California, she carried us almost single-handedly," Earleywine said in early April. "And it was a beautiful thing. I'd like to get her going. Because when you're picking a kid in your lineup you'd like to get hot, you certainly want of them with power to do it because that can change everything with one swing.
A couple weeks ago, when Earleywine was asked which offensive player on his team was the closest to getting breaking out and getting hot, again he named Roth saying that it was all coming together for her, and that if she finds "it," everyone will notice.
In her last two games, Roth is 4-for-6 with a home run and two RBIs.
Considering her home run was a towering blast that every one knew was gone from the moment it left the bat, it's fair to say people are beginning to take notice.
In the other action of the Columbia regional tournament, the DePaul Blue Demons of Chicago defeated the University of Massachusetts 3-0.
The game was tied going in to the sixth inning, and UMass pitcher Sara Plourde, the nation's leader in strikeout and wins, had a no-hitter going. But in that sixth inning, DePaul was finally able break through against Plourde and they scored the only three runs of the game.
With the win, DePaul advances to Saturday's 3 p.m. game against Missouri. UMass will play Friday night's loser, Illinois State.
The loser of the DePaul-Missouri game will take on the winner of the UMass-ISU game at 8 p.m Saturday.