Missouri softball clinches series against Georgia with walk-off home run

Saturday, March 29, 2014 | 6:47 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — It almost happened again.

It was the bottom of the seventh in the No. 16 Missouri softball team's second game of a series against No. 13 Georgia. The Tigers were in the familiar situation of being down by one run, with a 3-2 deficit as the frame began.

In both of Missouri's previous Southeastern Conference series this season, the Tigers won Game 1 on a Friday and then ended the series on consecutive losses. They gave up three of those four losses by one run, and two of the games went to extra innings.

On Saturday, Missouri was again three outs from a one-run loss in SEC play. A chance to earn its first conference series victory was slipping away.

A swing of the bat and a fist-pump by Missouri junior Angela Randazzo started to shatter this trend.

After sophomore Missouri shortstop Sami Fagan grounded out in the bottom of the seventh, "Never Gonna Get It" by Akon played instead of the usual "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid" that signals sophomore outfielder Emily Crane's at-bat.

Crane sat in the dugout, a large brace on her left leg and crutches by her side. After colliding with sophomore outfielder Taylor Gadbois in Friday's game, she sprained her MCL and will be out two to four weeks. Randazzo replaced her in the third lineup slot.

With a line drive to left field on the first pitch thrown to her in the bottom of the seventh, Randazzo scored Gadbois, tied the game 3-3 and proved she belonged there.

"I was especially happy because we moved her out of the four-hole into the three-hole today, and sometimes that can undulate you just enough," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "She just stepped up there like she'd been doing it all her life."

If Randazzo's fist-pump at first put cracks in the idea of another Saturday loss, the hugs at home plate two batters later crushed it.

The score was still tied with one out and runners at first and second as senior Missouri outfielder Mackenzie Sykes stepped to the plate.

On the second pitch, she made contact.

"Sykes had had a couple of hard-hit ground balls earlier in the game, and I was worried about a double play," Earleywine said.

"As soon as it came off the bat, I knew it wasn't a double play."

The ball soared over the left field wall, and Missouri came way with a 6-3 walk-off win — and its first conference series win of the season — as Sykes rounded the bases to greet her cheering teammates.

But there's still Sunday and the chance for another pair of firsts: a series sweep and a Sunday victory.

"Our goal was to win on Saturdays because we'd been poor so far in conference," Sykes said. "So now, you know, it's gotta be win on Sundays, because we haven't done that yet either. So we still have something to prove; that's for sure."

Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.

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