In the middle of the fifth inning Sunday, Missouri coach Ty Singleton called his team into the room behind the dugout to remind them what they were there to do.
“To get them out of the noise, out of the wind, out of the cold, I wanted to bring them into the team room for just a minute,” Singleton said. “To say, OK guys, I want you to take a deep breath and say simply, this is all we’re trying to do; this is our approach. I don’t want any other distractions.”
What the Tigers were trying to do was break Drake pitcher Jessica Hicks’ no-hitter. Missouri waited until the bottom of the seventh inning for its first hit, winning 3-2 to sweep a three-game home series against the Bulldogs.
MU (9-11) has won all five games played at University Field this season.
Shortstop Heather Kunkel had the Tigers’ first hit, a grounder to center field. After Kathy Masterson reached second on an error, Kunkel scored on a passed ball.
“Coach told me you’re going to score on a passed ball, so I got a good jump,” Kunkel said. “I was ready for something like that to happen.”
Allison Kennewell’s sacrifice fly to right field scored Masterson to tie at 2. Then, Kendra Power reached first on a walk, then stole second.
“The only way you’re going to score someone from first base in that situation is probably hitting the ball out of the ballpark,” Singleton said. “We’ve got speed at first, and it’s pretty hard to score from there but it’s a whole lot easier to score from second. That’s why we took that risk.”
A single from Ashley Hays drove in Power, giving MU the winning run.
“I try to be the same in my approach every time,” Hays said. “Just hit the ball up the middle.”
The Tigers poured out of the dugout to celebrate at home plate.
“It’s always nice to win a ball game like that in the last inning, it’s one of those things that can build confidence,” Singleton said.
The Tigers’ offense struggled for most of the game, as winds gusted from the west up to 31 mph. Drake (9-5) caught 15 Missouri fly balls.
“That was frustrating,” Singleton said. “You look at the conditions going here, from the center to the right, the wind is blowing in. If you get underneath the ball and to the left, maybe you can carry it out. Anywhere else, you need to be on top of the ball.
“That’s what I was disappointed in our approach, was we kept getting underneath the balls. I’m going, guys, the ball is just going to sit up there, waiting to be caught. We didn’t make that adjustment soon enough.”
After the team meeting, the Tigers improved at the plate, but Drake’s fielding still frustrated the Tigers.
On a full count, Power drove a ball to the left of Drake second baseman Lauren Smith who made a diving catch for the second out of the fifth.
“The ball was caught, but it was a nice hard line drive,” Singleton said. “Six inches more to the left and it’s a base hit.”
Hays followed with a line drive down the third base line, but the Bulldogs’ third baseman made an off-balance catch to end the inning.
Missouri pitcher Erin Kalka allowed three hits for two runs in the first inning, but gained focus as the game continued. She finished with six strike outs, and the Tigers did not allow any Drake runners past second base during the rest of the game.
“Erin has the maturity and the character to continue on,” Singleton said. “Her approach enabled us to have a chance to win the game.”
Erica Petersen relieved Kalka in the seventh. Singleton said Petersen needed a chance to get comfortable in seventh-inning relief situations.