On Saturday night, the biggest hits for the MU softball team were supplied by two of its shortest players.
Trailing No. 10 Texas by three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers finally figured out the Longhorns’ ace, Meagan Denny. A pair of two-RBI doubles by 5-foot-1 Julie Silver and 5-3 Andee Allen chased Denny in the middle of the inning and gave the Tigers a two-run lead. Missouri held on to win the game, 6-4.
From the start, the Tigers looked uncomfortable in the field and at the plate. After a four-hour postponement due to inclement weather, the game began with wind gusts of close to 40 mph blowing in from left field.
Easy fly balls turned into roundabout adventures for outfielders of both teams. In the third inning, for instance, Texas center fielder Kori Cook misread a fly ball off the bat of Missouri’s Leeanne Bowers. Cook slipped on the wet grass, and the ball fell in for a double. Silver said that while the wind wreaked havoc for the outfielders, it did not affect their mind-set at the plate. Proving her point, both of the doubles hit by Silver and Allen were off the left field wall.
“If there’s no wind, those are probably home runs,” Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said after the game.
Missouri’s starting pitcher, Jen Bruck, also looked uneasy early on. She gave up three runs in the first inning and fell behind in the count against the patient Longhorns. Bruck (10-4) settled down after the first and shut down the Longhorns’ potent offense for the next six innings. Her only hiccup was a third-inning home run to Texas’ Crystal Saenz.
While she looked composed on the mound, Bruck said that she never felt comfortable during the entire game.
“I couldn’t get in a rhythm,” the junior right-hander said. She failed to pinpoint what caused her uneasiness in the circle, saying that she had plenty of rest before the game.
“Maybe I was too rested,” Bruck said laughingly.
The six-run fourth inning seemed out of place after Denny had dominated the Tigers’ lineup through the first three innings. Denny (17-7) has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the Big 12 over the past two years. She entered Saturday’s game with 235 strikeouts and a miniscule 1.22 ERA. Earleywine said that her overpowering fastball can be intimidating.
“It’s not every day we see a girl throwing in the upper sixties,” Earleywine said. He attributed the big fourth inning to his players’ ability to gain familiarity with Denny’s repertoire.
“They got more patient as we went through the lineup,” Earleywine said.
The patience was evident during Silver’s at-bat in the fourth. She worked her way to a 2-1 count before slicing a double down the line in left field. Earleywine praised his right fielder’s ability to wait for a good pitch.
“She put herself in a good hitter’s count,” Earleywine said.
With the win, the Tigers improve to 26-17 on the year and 2-0 in the young Big 12 season. Texas, which was coming off wins over No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 2 Texas A&M, falls to 26-8 and 2-2 in Big 12 play.