No. 16 Missouri softball falls to No. 13 Georgia, misses out on series sweep

Sunday, March 30, 2014 | 4:56 p.m. CDT; updated 6:56 p.m. CDT, Sunday, March 30, 2014
No. 16 Missouri softball lost to No. 13 Georgia, 6-2, Sunday. The Tigers won the first two games of the series on Friday and Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Missouri freshman Casey Stangel reached up as the ball rushed toward her in right field, but it was no use.

The ball, hit by Georgia sophomore Alex Hugo, sneaked over the right field wall just out of reach, giving the Bulldogs a three-run home run and a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning.

Like the ball, a sweep against No. 13 Georgia would be out of reach for No. 16 Missouri as they fell to the Bulldogs 6-2 in Game 3 of the series Sunday. The Tigers had already clinched the series, winning the first two games on Friday and Saturday.

And like that play, things seemed to be just a little off for the Tigers throughout the game.

In the top of the second, Stangel held out her arms in an exaggerated shrug, signaling her disagreement with the umpire's ruling on the latest pitch.

But Stangel wasn't pitching.

After Missouri sophomore Emily Crane suffered an injury on Friday, the Tigers have been experimenting with replacing her in right field. So that's where Stangel started on Sunday — in a position she's practiced but doesn't usually play.

Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine hadn't been planning on Stangel playing there after Saturday's game.

"It is an option," he said of putting Stangel in right field, "but it's not a very attractive option. I just don't know if her speed's gonna allow it."

He changed his mind Sunday, thinking Stangel would be needed at the plate against Georgia pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson.

By the top of the fifth inning, though, Stangel was back in the pitcher's circle to replace fellow freshman pitcher Tori Finucane, who struggled through four innings, giving up four runs, six hits and three walks. Missouri junior Angela Randazzo took her place in right field — where she hasn't played since her freshman year.

A long throw soared from right field over the reach of the catcher in the top of the seventh as Georgia extended its lead to 6-2.

"It was kind of nerve-wracking at first," Randazzo said of playing in right field. "And then, yeah, everyone saw my throw."

"It's gonna be interesting out there in right field defensively until we get Emily back," Earleywine said.

Crane is expected to be out two to four weeks with the injury.

Despite the setback, Earleywine sees a plus in allowing players to get chances to try out the position.

And despite missing out on the series sweep, he sees an upside to clinching the series this weekend.

"I think it's just inherent that when you do something like that, it builds confidence, especially with young players," Earleywine said. "It's that feeling of knowing that we can."

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