COLUMBIA — Friday, USA Softball released its list of the 50 players to watch this season. Pitcher Chelsea Thomas was the only Tigers player on the list. So here is the Missouri watch list.
Chelsea Thomas, pitcher
The fifth-year senior has had an impressive career with two Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year awards. Last season, she broke the school’s career strikeout record and currently is 16 wins away from another Tigers record. Because of a wrist injury in the fall, coach Ehren Earleywine wants to make sure not to overwork Thomas, but fans can still rely on seeing her pitch every Friday and Sunday of a series. She was left off the All-Southeastern Conference preseason team, but that only encourages her.
“I feel like how I finished last year, I don’t really deserve to be on that first team, so it is kind of a motivation, (a) goal for myself that it’s my time to prove people wrong,” Thomas said.
Nicole Hudson, third base
By the numbers, senior Nicole Hudson had a great 2012 campaign with the second most doubles and home runs on the team, along with having the second-highest batting average and slugging percentage. But if you ask her, she will say that she didn’t have the season that she wanted. During the offseason, Hudson has worked hard to improve her swing and she said she now feels more comfortable at the plate. Slugger Ashley Fleming's eligibility has run out making Hudson the likely candidate to become the Tiger’s biggest power hitter. Also, keep an eye out for Hudson in the pitcher’s circle. She will be third in the depth chart after Thomas and sophomore Bailey Erwin.
“I think that I’m really ready to go this season, and I’m feeling the best that I’ve ever felt in my career, and I’m expecting to have the best season of my career,” Hudson said.
Jenna Marston, catcher
The player who teammates call “JJ,” has had a smooth transition to the catcher’s position after spending her first two seasons at Missouri as shortstop. Known for her plate discipline, Marston broke the team’s single-season walk record in 2012 with 46. She is also seven walks shy of breaking the team’s career walks record. Her teammates consider Marston a non-verbal leader who lets her actions set a good example. Sophomore Kelsea Roth even went so far as to say that Marston is the best all-around athlete she has ever seen.
“I did a lot of hitting over Christmas break and all fall and obviously here, so I feel like my hitting is coming around, so hopefully I have a lot better year than I did last year with hitting,” Marston said.
Corrin Genovese, shortstop
Considered a leader of the underclassmen, the sophomore had a big first year. After taking charge at short and third base, Genovese earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season. Earleywine said he thinks that not only is Genovese the best third baseman on the team, but that defensively, she is the greatest third baseman he has ever seen in women’s softball. Earleywine is going to keep her at shortstop this season, though, because he feels he must follow the old adage of putting your best infielder at short.
“I think we’re all determined with how the way we ended short last year, and we’re determined to go to the World Series and actually bring it home for the first time for Mizzou,” Genovese said.
The Tigers’ annual Black and Gold intrasquad game is less than a week away, with the first pitch set for 3 p.m. Saturday.