COLUMBIA — Missouri softball's first game in its doubleheader against Creighton on Tuesday was, in a word, weird.
Freshman pitcher Tori Finucane's performance in Game 2, however, was right on cue. It all amounted to a mid-week sweep.
Rain drizzled onto the field prior to the first pitch of Game 1, making conditions for play questionable. A single fan sat in the stands, hood up and gloves on, just 20 minutes before the game was scheduled to begin. But umpires deemed the game playable.
What may have been more surprising for fans — once they braved the rain and trickled into the stadium — was the 5-0 lead the Bluejays took in the top of the first inning. This came after Missouri's series win against then-No. 3 Florida last weekend.
Creighton scored five runs — all unearned — in that opening frame on Missouri's senior pitcher Alora Marble. Four of the RBIs came from singles by Creighton's Blake Ringle and Bri Lingl, adding rhyme to the already compelling first inning.
The Tigers struggled to find their footing, with just-missed catches and two almost-home runs by catcher Sami Fagan and first baseman Kelsea Roth. An announcer even claimed Fagan's long ball a "no doubter" right before it hit the wall.
"I knew it was gonna start off bad," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "Just the way our girls were warming up, and all the talk in the locker room was either about ROARS (an annual awards ceremony the MU athletics department puts on) or the weather."
The Tigers' offense quickly came to life, though, as No. 13 Missouri scored five runs apiece in the second and third innings.
Throughout this first game, which Missouri ended up winning 11-6, Finucane warmed up in the bullpen.
She'd just finished up a successful weekend at Florida, allowing four hits and three earned runs in the team's 5-3 opening win against the Gators, followed by a 10-strikeout outing in the Tigers' 5-4 series finale victory.
It was enough for her to earn both the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches' Association Division I National Player of the Week and the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week awards, becoming the second player in program history since former ace pitcher Chelsea Thomas in 2011 to earn both awards in the same week.
"It was kind of shocking, honestly," Finucane said.
She found out about the awards on social media — through her friend's Twitter account, since she doesn't have one of her own.
When Finucane entered the field for Game 2 against Creighton, she didn't disappoint.
She pitched a full seven innings with just one hit allowed in the top of the seventh. She struck out 10 Bluejays, leading the Tigers to a 2-1 win.
"Another One Bites the Dust" blared from the public address system after each strikeout, accompanied by cheers from the crowd. But Finucane hardly reacted. When the ball returned to her, she just took a deep breath and shrugged before launching the next pitch.
All the awards — and the weird first game — didn't faze her too much.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.