COLUMBIA – The glove came off.
Not in a they’re-going-to-fight kind of way, but a she-hit-that-ball-so-hard way.
Tigers freshman Emily Crane was named to the USA Softball Junior National team Friday. Crane, who was named the Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year in 2012, currently leads the team in doubles with nine this season. She is also quick on the base paths with eight stolen bases in nine attempts.
"Emily's kind of just a crazy freak of an athlete," senior Chelsea Thomas said. "She sees the ball really well and she's really athletic, so I think she's going to have a very good career here."
Crane went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run Friday against South Carolina.
Kelsi Jones’s single in the sixth inning of the Missouri softball team's 10-2 victory over South Carolina on Friday night at University Field was hit so hard that it knocked the glove off the hand of the Gamecocks' shortstop.
While the Tigers were already up 6-2, the hit sparked a rally that earned Missouri (18-2, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) its ninth run-rule shortened victory of the season.
Jones’ only hit of the night loaded the bases with no outs. It wasn’t long before the team’s tendency to overpower opponents kicked in and Missouri ended the game early for South Carolina (18-12, 1-6 SEC).
“I’m liking the run support,” Tigers pitcher Chelsea Thomas said.
Thomas thinks one reason for Missouri’s hot bats this season could be the amount of intrasquad games they have played in practice.
“I think sometimes that’s almost maybe better than Wednesday games,” Thomas said. “I get to see our top lineup and they get to see me.”
Missouri’s top lineup is led by senior Nicole Hudson and sophomore Kelsea Roth. Both have nine home runs this season.
“She can’t let me stay ahead of her in home runs for too long, so I think it will be a good battle this year and some friendly competition,” Hudson said at practice last week.
Roth tied Hudson at nine in the first inning of Friday’s game in a big way: a grand slam that soared past the bleachers in left field.
“Well that ball was crushed, first of all,” Thomas said. “I love seeing a ball hit like that, as long as it’s not off me.”
If the season ended Friday, Missouri’s 32 home runs would put the 2013 squad at 10th all-time on the school’s most in a season list.
“I think right now, we’re doing what we need to do. We’re getting it done, and we’ve been working on that,” Roth said.
Combined with the maturity of 10 freshmen into experienced sophomores and coach Ehren Earleywine’s focus on timing and pitch selection, Missouri has improved it’s hitting immensely since last season.
“It’s hard for me to judge from year to year, but I think everyone is feeling good right now, and that’s the key, feeling good, seeing the ball well, and they’re getting it done,” Thomas said.
With the 2012 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in the circle, a strong offense could just be exactly what Missouri needs to not only return to the Women’s College World Series, but to go all the way.
“On any given day, we can beat anybody in the country. So whatever that means, I guess a couple pretty big trophies at the end of the year,” Earleywine said. “So that’s what we’re shooting for.”