COLUMBIA — Kirsten Mack wears her team-issued winter coat everywhere.
"I live in this thing," the freshman Missouri catcher said, walking into practice Wednesday at Devine Practice Facility with the black puffy layer zipped up as usual. "Literally, if you saw me — I haven't taken this off in months."
The tournament will be held Friday through Sunday in Waco, Texas. Teams include No. 14 Missouri, Drake, Iowa, Lipscomb, University of Alabama at Birmingham and No. 16 Baylor.
Missouri will play UAB at 12:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Iowa at 3 p.m. On Saturday, they'll face Lipscomb at 12:30 p.m. and Drake at 3 p.m. They'll wrap up on Sunday against Baylor at 11 a.m.
A Riverside, Calif., native, Mack has felt like she's battling a cold amid Missouri's recent polar vortex. To fight off the elements, she has a car with all-wheel drive, and she's proud of avoiding getting stuck in the snow so far.
She tries to stay off the icy roads for the most part, but she still must brave the weather to drive to practice — held indoors. That's something else she didn't do in California, and it was hard for her to see at first in Devine's dim lighting.
But Mack has gotten used to it.
Becoming comfortable with the weather wasn't the only adjustment the newcomer made in order to become a standout player in last Saturday's Black & Gold exhibition game, where she hit three home runs to help lead the Black team to an 8-7 victory.
When Mack came to Missouri, she realized the cartilage in her left shoulder — the posterior labrum — was torn. She had surgery in July and spent the fall season in rehab, wondering if she'd ever recover the original power of her swing.
With three homers to kick off the season, that doesn't seem to be a big problem.
"That was the kid we recruited and then some on Saturday," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said.
It took some adjusting to get there, though. The Thursday before the Black & Gold game, Mack struggled at batting practice. She tried a handful of different swings, wanting to get it just right.
Her coaches suggested what they called a minor adjustment but she said felt like a "major" adjustment, flattening out her bat and using a one-handed backswing.
That did the trick.
"That is, in fact, the first home run I've seen her hit at Mizzou," Earleywine said of Mack's first home run at the Black & Gold game. "She needed it."
Coming in as one of six freshmen on the team, Mack also has adjusted well to the new group.
She walked into Devine on Wednesday as her teammates showed off their innovative new method of carrying equipment — clipping it to their belt loops and dragging it behind them.
"It's all fun and games," she said.
She'll help the team make its own adjustments, too, especially as it begins its season with a list of unknowns after losing key players. Mack will help replace power hitter Nicole Hudson, Earleywine said.
The Tigers will see how this pans out as they officially begin their season at the Baylor Getterman Classic on Friday in the warmer weather of Waco, Texas.
"It's like an unopened present," Earleywine said about the upcoming season.
As the season begins, Mack will get her chance at removing some of the wrapping paper.
And her winter coat.
Supervising editor is Wade Livingston.