Missouri softball loses twice to Nebraska, ends regional championship streak

Sunday, May 18, 2014 | 8:10 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Corrin Genovese was expecting the ball. It never came.  

"Kirsten!" yelled the Missouri shortstop after catcher Kirsten Mack failed to throw to second base, which allowed a Nebraska runner to freely steal the bag and get the Cornhuskers into scoring position for what felt like the thousandth time of the afternoon.

A normally-peppy Genovese threw her hands up in disbelief. No. 16 Missouri had already surrendered four runs in the third inning. No. 19 Nebraska added three more after the miscue to take a 9-3 lead in the NCAA regional contest, a game that would send the Tigers to play Alabama next week in the super regional if they won.

Instead, Missouri handed the regional title to Nebraska by dropping that game 11-4 and a rematch 8-1. The Tigers finished the season 43-18.

"It's really sad and humiliating and every emotion that you can think that can be negative is all piled on right now just because you have so much potential and you don't fulfill it," Genovese said. 

Missouri expects to be a part of postseason softball every May. Fans got plenty this weekend as Columbia played host to a regional tournament and the Tigers beat Bradley as well as rival Kansas.

But after the doubleheader loss Sunday, Missouri's streak of six consecutive regional championships is no more. Nebraska (44-16) became just the seventh team in 10 years to win a regional championship after losing its first game. 

"It just shows how hard it is," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "It's so very difficult to win a regional and we all get accustomed to it around here because we have people like (former Missouri All-American pitcher) Chelsea Thomas and so on." 

Earleywine opted to send out senior pitcher Alora Marble, who hasn't started this month, in the first game against Nebraska ace Tatum Edwards. Missouri freshman Tori Finucane, whom Earleywine planned to start every game this weekend, injured herself during practice Tuesday and was unable to pitch. 

Missouri threw freshman Casey Stangel in the second game against Emily Lockman, who pitched five innings before allowing Edwards to close it out. 

"That's a chess game, there," Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle said of the pitching matchups. 

Neither strategy nor timing seemed be in Missouri's favor.

The Tigers had only one fewer hit than Nebraska in the second game but failed to produce when it mattered most. Nebraska's Hailey Decker, on the other hand, was automatic with runners on base. She hit for eight RBIs in the doubleheader. The Cornhuskers also hit seven home runs off Missouri pitchers. 

"A home run here and there is gonna happen, but the key is to not have runners on base when that happens," Genovese said. "The key to this game is timely hitting."

Just when Missouri started to find a rhythm offensively in the second game, Revelle put in Edwards, who allowed only one hit in two innings pitched. Then, in the top of the seventh, Decker hit her fourth home run of the day to cement the win.

Missouri third baseman Sami Fagan couldn't bear to watch, burying head in her hands while leaning against the home dugout. 

Despite the loss, expectations are high for this Missouri team's next season. The team only loses two players to graduation, while Finucane and Stangel look to form one of the best pitching combinations in college softball in their sophomore season. 

But, as Genovese learned while watching the Cornhuskers celebrate their improbable district championships on her field, expectations can lead to regret.

Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.

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