When Missouri was scrambling for a catcher, freshman Kathy Masterson was looking for a position.
She found it behind the plate.
Masterson entered MU as a utility player who had pitching and infield experience, but no background in catching.
The last-minute loss of Daisy Mettlach, last year’s catcher, forced the Tigers (10-15) to find a player to fill her spot. Mettlach was dismissed from the team during the winter for disciplinary reasons. Masterson was the prime replacement candidate.
“Coach (Ty Singleton) asked if I would consider it,” Masterson said. “I always wanted to catch anyway.”
Masterson tackles the job of learning a new role with the same tenacity she applies to schoolwork. She is an engineering major with a 4.0 grade point average.
“It’s just like doing homework; I’m not happy with anything less than my best effort,” she said. “I’ll keep working at it until I’m the best.”
Masterson has needed to adjust quickly to her new position and pitcher Erin Kalka’s throwing style.
“I never knew a ball could move that much,” she said. “But it’s not just about catching the ball. I learn something new every day.”
Singleton has been pleased with Masterson’s hard work, noting her focus come game time, even during games in Arizona last weekend.
“She had a face that says, ‘I want to be in there,’” he said. “I’m proud of her approach.”
Although Masterson might have her approach to catching down, the team has struggled to relax into the moment-by-moment approach Singleton stresses.
It seems like on any given game day, one of two possible MU teams could run out of the dugout.
If the game is at University Field, there is a good chance the Tigers emerging from the pregame huddle are relaxed, their mindset tuned into the approach Singleton stipulates.
If the Tigers run out of a dugout outside of Columbia, history has shown the team could likely be anxious, playing tentatively.
MU has won every home game, but has lost 15 of 20 road games.
Singleton knows the Tigers must learn to win on the road. The team will travel to play six teams ranked above it in the Big 12 Conference.
“If we are not aggressively smarter, we are not going to be successful in any area,” Singleton said.
MU has time to iron out mental roadblocks before Big 12 competition.
First, it will try to remain undefeated at University Field in a doubleheader against Southwest Missouri State (14-10) that starts at 2 p.m. today. The second game will be played directly after the first.
The Bears recently competed in the Southeast Missouri State Spring Classic, where pitcher Amanda Herbster threw two no-hitters. Southwest Missouri is ranked No. 6 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Tigers entered the season ranked No. 5 in the Big 12, but road losses have dropped them to eighth of 10 teams.
Singleton has noticed his players’ fear of letting one another down has caused glitches in their approach.
“That’s an obstacle to being relaxed,” he said. “I think that’s part of a young mentality.”