COLUMBIA – It was a complicated process.
Arkansas pitcher Kimmy Beasley bounced as she waited for the pitch sign from the catcher.
As Beasley brought her glove down, she squatted down so low that her butt was two feet off the ground. In one sweeping motion, she stood back up, wound her arm and released the ball toward the batter.
For six innings, Beasley held Tiger batters to just one hit with her unique delivery, something Missouri had trouble getting used to.
“It took a while, obviously it’s still taking a while, we aren’t getting to where we like,” Missouri's Kelsea Roth said.
Squat after squat, pitch after pitch, Missouri batters were left walking back to the dugout. Beasley would go on to strike out 12 Missouri batters.
It was no different on the other side. Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas kept Arkansas hitters mostly off the bases as well.
“I really felt like today was probably her best game in a while, just in terms of control and pitch count,” coach Ehren Earleywine said. “She just didn’t get any help. She didn’t get any help defensively, and we sure as heck didn’t swing the bats, but I was really impressed with her outing.”
An error by Tiger third baseman Angela Randazzo and a vacated home plate led to the go-ahead Razorback run in the seventh. Thomas got the next three batters out, but the Tigers would head into the bottom of the inning down 1-0.
Friday night’s walk-off home run hero, Roth, took a 0-1 unique pitch from Beasley and hit a laser to left-center field that got out of the park in a hurry. Tie game.
The two teams would remain hitless in the next three innings. Emily Crane hit a ball to center field in the eighth, but Arkansas’ Stephanie Canfield was there to make an over-the-shoulder catch. Earleywine was stunned and bent over in disbelief.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think that girl still understands how she caught that ball,” Earleywine said. “It made me want to vomit. It was luck. It was 100 percent luck.”
In the top of the eleventh, Thomas moved to foul territory to back up the throw to third base. Her face expressionless as usual, but inside, she was far from expressionless.
“I was pretty mad at myself,” Thomas said. “But they put the bat on the ball on some pretty good pitches, so, I mean, that’s how you play the game of softball."
The go-ahead Arkansas run had scored again. Only this time, two runs scored. And then another one. Suddenly, Missouri was down 4-1 and the University Field crowd of 1,680 got quiet.
“We’ve done like 10 runs in an inning before, so I knew we could come back,” Roth said.
Two quick outs and a single later in the bottom of the eleventh and the Tigers were down to their final out.
Bounce, squat, wind, strike.
Roth popped up the unique pitch and the game was over.
“But there’s always tomorrow,” Roth said. “Hopefully we’ll win that game tomorrow.”
The rubber match of the series between No. 8/9 Missouri (24-5, 9-4 SEC) and Arkansas (27-16, 5-9 SEC) is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at University Field and will be televised on ESPNU.