COLUMBIA — It was calm after the storm.
Freshman Natalie Fleming had rounded the bases with a giant grin on her face. She accepted her teammates' hugs and the crowd's standing ovation in response to her three-run, walk-off home run that gave Missouri a 5-3 Game 1 victory against Ole Miss.
"I actually didn't think it was gonna go out when I first hit it," Fleming said. "But I was just trying to have a productive at-bat, and it happened."
Despite the jubilation, Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine shook his head.
"I was just so displeased at that point with our team's effort that it was hard for me to get excited," he said.
Fleming's home run aside, Game 1 wasn't ideal for the Tigers. They managed only five hits off of the Rebels' No. 3 pitcher Emily Gaitan. Missouri also left nine on base.
And then there were the errors — two of them, both committed by none other than Fleming.
But after a tumultuous first game, the Tigers started Game 2 more quietly. Missouri got on board with an unearned run in the first inning, but otherwise, the offense started slowly.
Sharp defense, however, made up for the subdued early hitting. Sophomore right fielder Emily Crane, who had just returned after an MCL injury, made impressive running catches in both the second and third innings.
Senior left fielder Mackenzie Sykes made a decisive highlight-worthy catch of her own with two outs and two runners on. Ole Miss freshman Courtney Syrett launched a hit toward left field. Sykes sprinted, jumped and managed to come down with the ball in her glove. She had just robbed Syrett of a home run.
"I thought our outfield was about as good as I've ever seen it," Earleywine said.
But the bats remained quiet.
An inning later, another home run from Fleming took some of the pressure off Missouri's offense.
"That's the great thing about this sport," Sykes said of Fleming, "is that you can pick yourself up."
It was a solo shot this time, not as exciting as the walk-off from the game before. But it put Missouri up 2-0, which would be enough to clinch its fourth straight Southeastern Conference series.
Supervising editor is Sasu Siegelbaum