COLUMBIA – Chelsea Thomas, the two-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and Missouri’s most noteworthy player, threw five scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, allowing just three hits.
But her strong performance wasn’t the headline of Saturday’s game: It was the team’s offense.
In the annual Black and Gold intrasquad game, the Tigers totaled 19 hits in nine innings, with Lindsey Muller and Alyssa Cousins each hitting two-run home runs. When Cousins’ bat made contact with the ball, she first thought it was a pop-up, so she ran hard to first in case the ball was dropped. After reaching the base, Cousins realized the ball went over the centerfield wall and sighed in relief.
“The countenance on her face was just a real sense of peace and happiness when she hit that home run,” coach Ehren Earleywine said. “These kids, they give so much and you like for them every once in a while to get a bone thrown her way, and I’m just very happy for her.”
Missouri’s other redshirt freshman, Carlie Rose, had the most unusual at-bat of the game when her metal bat broke in half off pitch from Thomas.
“Never had that happen before, that was a first, never had a bat break and fly at me,” Thomas said.
As surprised as Thomas and fans were, Earleywine said at least 50 of these new Louisville Slugger bats have broken at practice this year, costing $350 each. This is the first season the team has used Louisville Sluggers and Earleywine thinks there’s something faulty about the bats.
Earleywine has high hopes for the bats of his two true freshmen, Sarah Moore and Emily Crane, noting that Moore is eventually going to be dynamic.
“I really like my freshmen. Emily hit the ball on the screws every time except one, which is so prototypical of her,” Earleywine said.
On the base paths, Missouri stole six bases in seven attempts, something that is both pleasing and displeasing for Earleywine.
“We have great speed on this team, but at the same time, J.J. (Marston) has to get better, that’s definitely an Achilles' heel of ours right now, she needs to be throwing out 33 percent or more of would-be base stealers,” Earleywine said.
Earleywine projected this year's team to have a bigger focus on the short game rather than relying on big hits. Taylor Gadbois, Kayla Kingsley, Brianna Corwin and Ashtin Stephens will be key slap hitters for the team this season.
After a postgame talk with Earleywine, the players’ day was not yet over. It was time for conditioning. The team ran a lap on the warning track before agility drills with softballs. The players were happy to get out of the cold when it was over and especially can’t wait to get to warmer climates when they travel to California on Thursday.
The 2013 softball season begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday with a tournament at the University of California-Santa Barbara, followed by tournaments in Palm Springs and Fullerton, Calif.