It might be only October, but don’t blame Missouri coach Ty Singleton for looking forward to softball season.
“I’m very excited,” he said.
The Tigers swept a fall exhibition doubleheader Saturday against Johnson County (Kans.) Community College 2-1, 3-2 at University Field.
“We’re definitely raw right now, but I think we’re real athletic, and I think we got a whole bunch of potential,’’ Singleton said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how (the players) develop and how they grow.”
All of that raw potential was on display Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers winning both games in their last at-bat was perhaps most encouraging.
Sophomore Joanne Loethen scored the winning run in the eighth inning of the opener, coming home from third on a throwing error. Freshman Allison Kennewell scored on a wild pitch to win the second game.
After finishing last season third in the Big 12 Conference at 31-20, there is much work to do before the season opener in February. With only two seniors, the Tigers will need to grow up quickly.
“I expect us to have a lot of learning to take place early on,” Singleton said. “Mentally we showed some tightness today that does not look similar to when we’ve been scrimmaging, and so we’ve got to find some way to take what we’re doing in our scrimmage and put it into a game.”
Michaela Minner, a freshman from Sanger (Texas) High, is one of the younger players Singleton is counting on.
She did her part Saturday, batting in the No. 3 spot and going 3-for-5 with a double and five stolen bases. In the second game, she sparked a two-out, two-run, first inning rally after being hit by a pitch. She scored on sophomore Samantha Fleeman’s double.
“I don’t get bothered,” she said. “Getting on base helps the team. So, if (getting hit by a pitch) helps the team, then I don’t care. I’ll get hit every time.”
Pitching is another area Singleton can be optimistic about. Missouri didn’t give up an earned run all day.
Freshman Erica Peterson pitched six innings and allowed only two hits in the doubleheader while striking out 10.
She teamed with Fleeman to throw five innings of no-hit ball out of the bullpen in the first game.
“I’m working on a lot of new things and making adjustments,” Peterson said. “My placement, adjusting to 43 feet, is a new distance for me. Coach (Tom) Royder really emphasizes being big with your body and that sort of thing. Really hitting my spots well is most important.”
MU allowed two hits in the opener.
There is room for improvement, though.
After batting .261 in 2003, the Tigers were helpless most of the afternoon against the Lady Cavaliers. Johnson County allowed only nine hits in the doubleheader – a statistic that Singleton said had him worried.
The defense was shaky as well. Johnson County scored its only runs of the second game in the first inning, after the Tigers committed two errors. Singleton said his new fielders are not familiar with each other.
Minner, despite her offensive heroics, wasn’t 100 percent satisfied with her Tigers’ debut, either.
In the sixth inning of the second game, she singled with one out and stole second, but was called out going to third after being hit by freshman Kathy Masterson’s ground ball.
“There’s a lot of stuff that I need to work on,” she said.
“I’m aggressive but I need to control my aggressiveness.”
With more than three months before the season starts, there is time to work out problems.
“I’ll fix it, definitely,” Minner said.