COLUMBIA — As members of the Missouri softball team sat at the tables at Mizzou Arena's Clinton Club on Sunday night, they didn't look the way fans are used to seeing them.
They wore unmatching T-shirts, flip flops and jeans. Some had their hair down. They picked at plates of toasted ravioli, chicken wings and cookies.
Friday, May 16
Game 1: Nebraska (40-14, 18-5 Big Ten) vs. Kansas (32-21, 7-11 Big 12), 12:30 p.m.
Game 2: No. 15 Missouri (41-16, 15-9 SEC) vs. Bradley (27-30, 15-12 Missouri Valley), 3 p.m.
Saturday, May 17
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 3:30 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 6 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Sunday, May 18
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, noon
Game 7 (if necessary): 2:30 p.m.
All games will be streamed live through Mizzou Network.
Televisions all around the room blasted ESPNU as the team buzzed with excitement — it was there to watch the NCAA Division I Selection Show to discover its postseason plans.
Missouri had reason to be excited. The team has hosted five straight regionals at University Field, and it has gone on to make six straight super regional appearances.
As the show began, freshman pitcher Casey Stangel yelled, "Hey! Hey!" to quiet the down the room. Laughter ensued when it was announced that top-seeded Oregon will face Utah Valley — a team with a whopping 18-40 record — in the Eugene, Ore., regional. During commercials, members of the team turned to the textbooks they brought with them; finals begin Monday.
Although things seemed relaxed, Missouri had some reason to worry. After losing 6-0 to LSU in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament last weekend, the team's postseason fate was unknown.
"It's unacceptable to play like they did against LSU," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said.
The first 12 of the 16 regionals were announced. At the next commercial break, instead of just reading, Missouri started breaking things down, trying to determine its chances of still hosting a regional.
Texas A&M had yet to be announced, some pointed out. Same with Oklahoma.
"You just try not to read too much into it," senior left fielder Mackenzie Sykes said. "You just, you know, wait for them to show where you're going and what's going on."
The commercial break ended. Oklahoma would host a regional in Norman, where Texas A&M would also play.
"Oh!" members of Missouri reacted. They still had a chance. ESPNU announced the Knoxville regional next.
And then cheers broke the tension.
Missouri, which earned a No. 15 seed, will host Bradley, Kansas and Nebraska in its sixth-straight hosted regional. Missouri will play Bradley at 3 p.m. on Friday and then has a chance to rekindle the Missouri-Kansas rivalry on Saturday. Tickets will be available beginning at noon Monday at the Mizzou Arena Ticket Office and at mutigers.com.
Cheers continued as ESPNU featured recent SEC Freshman of the Year, pitcher Tori Finucane. In her T-shirt and jeans with her hair down, she just laughed.
With a regional secured, she and the rest of the team have reason to smile.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.