The Missouri softball team is learning to lighten up.
In Missouri’s Black and Gold scrimmage Saturday at University Field, 16 players divided into three teams with pitchers Erin Kalka, Samantha Fleeman and Erica Peterson leading each group.
Coach Ty Singleton designed the scrimmage to be informal to give the Tigers, ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference, a chance to get comfortable playing on their home field after three consecutive tournaments on the road.
“What I like about this format is, we’re getting everybody equal at-bats; all the pitchers throw and all the catchers catch and do it equally,” Singleton said.
The Tigers (4-11), a young team struggling to overcome game-day nerves, used the opportunity to loosen up, smiling and joking between plays.
“For some reason, when we step on the field recently we’ve just gotten really tight,” senior outfielder Morgan LeCluyse said. “I think as a team we’re just kind of getting used to staying loose and being ourselves on the field. The only way we can play to our standards is just to be loose and have that fun on the field.”
LeCluyse, who had last year’s second highest batting average at .341, hit two home runs against Fleeman. The first came on a full count in the second inning and went over the centerfield fence. In her next at bat in the fourth, LeCluyse hit to left field for an inside-the-park home run, driving in teammate Holly Haines.
The scrimmage ended after catcher Morgan Kent picked off Joanne Loethen at first base.
“She kind of slipped up on it and made a little error in judgment on the ball, so I just figured I’d try and get the out, and we did,” Kent said.
A sophomore, Kent is the Tigers’ most experienced catcher. She said she’s working to make her teammates more comfortable.
“Hopefully when I’m back there I can just be confident and help the team relax,” she said. “Today, we looked like we were having fun and happy to be out here. Everybody just had a lot more fun and playing at our home field is always a blast.”
Missouri’s other two catchers are freshmen, and one, Kathy Masterson, has not played the position before this season. She is listed as an infielder and catcher
“She’s catching up so fast, and doing a good job,” Kent said.
In the last inning, Masterson was called out at second on Loethen’s hit, but her slide prevented a double play.