COLUMBIA — Smack.
As the No. 18 Missouri softball team warmed up for its game against the University of Missouri-Kansas City, you could hear it. The clank of balls against metal bats, the thwack of mitts snagging balls, and a smack.
Looking into the bullpen, you could see where it was coming from.
Senior pitcher Alora Marble bent down. She lifted her right arm up with the ball in hand and wheeled it around, releasing the ball in a pitch to freshman catcher Kirsten Mack. But before the thud of the ball landing in Mack's glove reaches your eardrums, you hear it.
It's Marble's left hand hitting her left thigh after each pitch. Smack.
The smacking technique is something she's always done, not just when the Tigers smacked their own 10 hits to dominate the Roos in a 14-0 shutout Sunday, securing Missouri's perfect 4-0 performance in the Mizzou Tournament. It's something she's been doing since Joe Packwood taught her to pitch from his wheelchair at Packwood Fastpitch in Wheaton.
"I've tried not hitting my leg and it's a disaster," Marble said.
After the Tigers' high-scoring third inning, which included seven runs on three hits and a few walks, Marble returned to the circle and you could hear it. You could hear it all the way from behind left field, where Mack launched a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.
"You always wonder if it distracts the hitter in any way," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "'Cause it's so thunderous."
Earleywine was happy with Marble's performance Sunday — happy she threw strikes. He mentioned her hand getting sore after pitching, but with such a noticeable smack, you might wonder if her leg is sore, too.
The answer is yes.
"With pants on, it's not as bad," Marble said. "Whenever I have shorts on, I hit a pretty big bruise until further in the season, and then I guess my leg kinda gets used to it."
"She'll be glad when softball's over ... put her swimsuit back on," Earleywine joked about the bruise she develops. He's never seen anyone who hit his or her leg that hard.
But bruise or not, she's throwing strikes.
"Even if she doesn't pitch that weekend, she's still working hard in her bullpens, working hard in practice and trying to be the best she can be," fellow pitcher freshman Casey Stangel said. "Every time she throws a strike, I'm excited."
Marble's final pitch resulted in a liner to sophomore shortstop Sami Fagan to end the shutout in five innings.
So don't be alarmed by the smacking you hear.