Missouri softball advances to regional final

Missouri will face the Illinois State at 2 p.m. Sunday
Saturday, May 19, 2012 | 8:04 p.m. CDT; updated 10:58 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 19, 2012
Missouri defeated DePaul 1-0 Saturday to reach Sunday's regional final. The game went into extra innings, ending with a walk-off home run by Ashley Fleming in the ninth.

COLUMBIA – If there is such thing as having a signature way to win, Missouri discovered it Saturday evening against DePaul.

Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Chelsea Thomas dominated, not allowing her opponents to cross home plate.

Game notes

Last season, Missouri lost to DePaul in the regional tournament. Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine wouldn't call Saturday's 1-0 victory a revenge win, but he is very happy he and his ace, Chelsea Thomas, will get to rest until Sunday afternoon before their next game.

Missouri had seven hits against DePaul left-hander Kirsten Verdun. Curiously, all seven came off the bats of Tiger lefties with Ashley Fleming, Jenna Marston and Kayla Kingsley collecting two each and Nicole Hudson contributing one.

Fleming’s walkoff blast was her 16th of the season and the 43rd of her career, tying her with Amanda Renth for second all-time.

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First team All-Big 12 Conference player Ashley Fleming provided the Tigers' only offense of the game.

And the Tigers win.

Missouri softball. (Trademark)

Thomas was in control the entire game, striking out 10 Blue Demon batters and scattering five hits across nine shutout innings.

Fleming had two of No. 9-seed Missouri's seven hits including its biggest, a walkoff solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning giving the Tigers a 1-0 victory.

All season Thomas and Fleming have carried the Tigers to a 45-12 record and now have brought them one win away from their fourth consecutive regional title. 

Thomas, Missouri's ace, pushed her record to 25-7 and lowered her ERA to an even 1.00 in 204 innings pitched.

And Fleming leads the offense in almost every significant category including batting average, at bats, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, total bases, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. 

They are two of the major reasons why Missouri is where it is right now, and their teammates know it.

Freshman Corrin Genovese pretty much predicted Fleming and the Tigers' future a couple days before the Columbia regional tournament began. 

"She's (Fleming) so clutch," Genovese said. "We'll be 0-0 with a team that we should be spanking, and we'll get a runner on with a walk and she'll hit a bomb. It's like, 'Who does that?' It's ridiculous how good she is."

She was close. The bases were empty for Fleming's walkoff winner. 

Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine was also impressed with Thomas' performance against DePaul.

"I don't think she pitched particularly well last night (against Illinois State) for her," Earleywine said. "Most pitchers, they'd love to have that kind of performance, but today was a really good performance because she pitched. We played nine innings, and she only had 100 pitches. That's very rare. That tells you she pitched smart."

Missouri will play for the regional championship at 2 p.m. Sunday against Illinois State. If Illinois wins that first game, the two play an elimination game at 4 p.m.

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