COLUMBIA – Nicole Hudson slid home, her left hand swiped the plate and Missouri had its first run of the day. After being run-ruled by Hofstra earlier Sunday, Hudson and the Tigers needed that first run.
“It was a little bit of a relief,” Hudson said after Missouri's 5-0 win clinched a berth in the NCAA Super Regionals next week. “We knew that if we score first, we had a good chance of winning the game.”
In the circle for the Tigers in Game 1, Hudson gave up nine runs on seven hits. Missouri had four errors. Two of those errors came from Princess Krebs, who Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine included in the lineup Sunday specifically for her defense.
The Tigers sat in the dugout after the 10-0 Game 1 loss and watched Hofstra celebrate. Hofstra had forced a second game and Missouri was one loss away from ending its season.
Between games, Earleywine tried to keep his players positive and remind them that Chelsea Thomas — the best pitcher in the country, in his opinion — was going to start the second game.
“You just worry if the emotion of getting beat that bad was going to disrupt the emotion of Game 2 and so I did everything I could,” Earleywine said.
Maybe it was the confidence of having Thomas in the circle, maybe it was the need to stay alive in the tournament, or maybe it was because Hofstra’s pitcher, Olivia Galati, had pitched four games in the regional so far.
Whatever the reason may be, Missouri reawakened in the second game, starting with that run scored by Hudson in the first inning.
“You could just kind of tell at the beginning of that game, everybody was a little more locked in,” Hudson said.
Thomas had little trouble with Hofstra, just one hit and an error away from perfection. With Thomas pitching for Missouri, the Tigers knew that one run was usually enough to win, but Hudson had more redemption to collect.
With Jenna Marston on second base, Hudson took a 2-1 pitch beyond the right field wall. As she rounded the bases, her smile grew bigger and bigger. After just one hit in three games earlier in the regional, Hudson was relieved.
“That was a lot of frustration of the whole weekend,” Hudson said as she smiled at Thomas in the postgame press conference. “So that was good to finally get one.”
Kelsea Roth also took Galati deep, with a home run in the second inning. Both Roth and Hudson lead Missouri this season with 16 home runs each.
After Thomas threw the last strike of the game, Missouri’s celebration was on par with many post-win cheers this season. Happy, but not overjoyed. The players smiled and yelled, but kept their composure.
Yes, they staved off elimination, and yes, they now get to host a Super Regional next weekend, but as Earleywine said, their standards are much higher than playing in a regional.
What perhaps gave Earleywine and the Tigers an extra reason to smile is that for the first time in six weeks, Thomas didn’t feel any symptoms of numbness in her hand or fatigue in her arm. The exertional compartment syndrome scare appeared to be over.
“I think Chelsea is going to be able to throw the duration from here on out,” Earleywine said.
A huge relief off the coach’s shoulders, he looks forward to possibly being able to focus more attention on his other players and the whole team’s preparation for next weekend. The Tigers will face the University of Washington in the NCAA Super Regionals in a best-of-three series to decide which advances to the Women’s College World Series. The series will start Thursday in Columbia with the first game set for 8 p.m. The second game is set for a 5 p.m. start Friday with a third game, if necessary, to follow at 8 p.m. Friday.