No. 18 Missouri softball takes both games of Wednesday's doubleheader

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 | 9:18 p.m. CDT; updated 12:02 a.m. CDT, Thursday, March 20, 2014
The Tigers won both games of a double header against Illinois State on Wednesday.

COLUMBIA — Ashtin Stephens didn’t think her shot to left field would reach the ground.

The Missouri second baseman expected Illinois State's Kelsey Turczyn to make the catch, but the ball sailed over the left fielder's outstretched glove. Stephens' opposite-field double scored two base runners to give Missouri a 3-1 lead.

Stephens, who entered Wednesday with no extra-base hits, even managed to surprise herself with the burst of power.

"I hit but not for power" Stephens said. "I got to second base, and I was like, ‘Oh where did that come from?'"

Stephens drove in all four of Missouri's RBIs in the first game of the Tigers' doubleheader sweep over Illinois State (8-17) on Wednesday. No. 18 Missouri (19-7) went on to win the first contest 4-2, but coach Ehren Earleywine wasn’t pleased with his team’s offensive performance.

"She (Stephens) was the MVP of that game," Earleywine said. "The sad thing is that our 9-hole drove in all four of our runs. That's not a good thing for our offense."

The Missouri offense made marginal improvements in its second game Wednesday — scoring five runs on eight hits. Another unlikely source — this time shortstop Corrin Genovese — did the heavy lifting for Missouri in game two. The junior drove in three RBIs in as many hits, including a double to left center in the fifth inning that scored two Missouri base runners.

Earleywine, though, remained disappointed.

"I thought our offense sputtered a lot today," he said. "With young kids, anything is capable of drawing their focus and concentration off, and you just wonder if the weather got to them."

Freshman third baseman Natalie Fleming, who made her first start of the season in the second game, also added a solo home run in the Tigers' 5-0 victory. Earleywine said Fleming’s 2-for-3 performance could earn her more playing time.

"She (Fleming) got my attention," Earleywine said. "We have some spots in the 5- through 8-holes. She might have won herself an opportunity to get some swings this weekend."

Starting pitchers Tori Finucane and Casey Stangel each delivered strong performances in the sweep. The pair of freshmen hurlers both pitched complete games.

Finucane fanned a season-high nine batters in game one. The right-hander surrendered two runs on four hits.

In game two, Stangel was even more dominant. The freshman pitcher allowed just two hits and no runs. Earleywine said he was pleased with recent adjustments Stangel has made.

"She made a big shift in her pitching," Earleywine said. "Early in the season she was high octane. Her heart rate was like 200 over 150 and she was trying to throw it hard. And the harder she tried to throw it, the harder they hit."

Stangel dominated the Illinois State lineup despite recording zero strikeouts.

Missouri continues its nine-game home stand at 4:30 p.m. Friday against Ball State. The Tigers host Ball State at University Field in the first of four games of the Mizzou Tournament. Missouri is also scheduled to take on North Dakota State, Oklahoma State and University of Missouri-Kansas City in the weekend slate of games.

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