COLUMBIA — Casey Stangel saluted her fellow freshman pitcher, Tori Finucane, in the dugout to wish her luck as the fans rolled in for No. 16 Missouri softball's 7-2 win against No. 9 Kentucky on Friday.
A muffled smattering of applause rose from the stands as Finucane headed to the pitching circle. Fans were still warming up, too: It was the first home game of the season for the Tigers (16-5, 2-2 Southeastern Conference).
Finucane, though, didn't take long to get her arm going.
The right-hander didn't tally a strikeout until the fifth inning and didn't allow a run over six innings. The freshman, pitching for the first time at home against a top-10 opponent, was going for the shutout.
There were some close calls.
In the top of the sixth, the Wildcats (19-4, 2-2) had runners on second and third. But junior third baseman Corrin Genovese snagged a line drive from Kentucky sophomore Christian Stokes and stepped on the base for a double play.
The shutout was safe.
"I wanted to just run up and give her a big hug, but I couldn't," Finucane said.
It was the top of the seventh. Both teams had nine hits, but Missouri was up 7-0. With two outs, Finucane needed just one more to secure it.
The bases were loaded, and Finucane walked Kentucky's first runner in on a pitch close to the strike zone. The crowd disagreed, and a stream of boos broke the silence of the previous six innings.
The shutout slipped away.
"When it's that close, closing it, you get a little antsy and excited," Finucane said. "That's just something I'm also working on — don't walk people when you're that close."
Despite not securing the shutout, Finucane now knows what to expect. That might be important because Missouri and Kentuckywill have to turn their three-day series into a Saturday doubleheader with winter weather on the way Sunday.
Finucane even seemed excited about the possibility of pitching back-to-back days.
"She said, 'Typically I throw better when I'm a little bit sore on Day Two,'" Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "And I was like, well, yee-haw."
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.