COLUMBIA — No runs, no hits, no errors.
The announcer repeated this for five innings — five innings of near perfection from Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas and Texas A&M pitcher Mel Dumezich. Only three walks were allowed during that time.
Then the sixth inning came with a little hope for the two teams. Both pitchers gave up a hit — a double by Texas A&M's Taran Tyler and a single by Missouri's Jenna Marston but were able to keep the runners from scoring.
On another day, Tyler's double would have cleared the center field wall. The wind that was blowing the new Southeastern Conference banners kept her hit from leaving the park. It was one of a handful of fly balls that outfielders caught at the warning track.
Then, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, junior Mackenzie Sykes stepped up to the plate for Missouri.
A liner down the left field foul line stayed fair and smacked the outfield wall just above the new SEC logo. The game-winning run was now on second.
Sophomore Kelsea Roth was up next.
Roth, who was 0-1 with a walk, said she didn’t feel any pressure as she stepped up to the plate. She just wanted to end the game.
She hit the ball high into the air — so high it didn’t look like it would make it over the fence, just like the earlier fly balls. In the dugout, Thomas crossed her fingers.
The wind — the same one that had dropped balls into gloves — this time allowed the ball to fly the extra couple feet it needed to get over the left-center field wall.
As soon as Roth realized it was a home run, there were just two words in her mind.
She rounded the bases and jogged into the embrace of all of her teammates waiting at home plate. Ball game over. Tigers win.
In a game with a total of four hits, No. 5 Missouri (10-1, 1-0 SEC) was able to gain the extra edge over their conference rival, No. 7 Texas A&M (22-2, 0-1 SEC).
Missouricoach Ehren Earleywine, who was not available for comment after the game, said at practice Thursday that it is a strong possibility the Tiger ace will pitch Saturday’s 2 p.m. game as well.
As fans filtered out of the stadium, two men remained on the bleachers discussing the emotional impact of such a close game.
“I like the drama,” said one of the men.
The other one shook his head and laughed in partial disagreement.
“Man, it’s exhausting though.”