Better communication key for talkative Tigers

Friday, April 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:56 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

There are never any members of the Missouri Spirit Squad at University Field, but Joanne Loethen is always there to compensate.

“Everybody calls me the cheerleader because I’m always doing cheers and yelling as loud as I can,” Loethen said.

All season, the Tigers (15-19) have hollered personalized cheers from the dugout as teammates step to the plate. MU is working to increase communication while on the field as well.

The Tigers return to University Field on Saturday, for a two-game series against Big 12 Conference opponent Oklahoma State (20-18). The first game starts at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s another thing coach has stressed lately,” Loethen said. “Just to be loud and to talk between pitches, always talk and never stop talking. It really helps us get in the game and get focused and really want to win.”

In her second season as the Tigers’ starting first baseman, Loethen has been a pillar in MU’s erratic defense.

“She’s doing a nice job, real smooth over there with her hands,” coach Ty Singleton said. “She’s good at receiving throws from the other infielders and doing a good job of being real verbal and being aware of every situation.”

Loethen said that increasing levels of trust has helped the young team begin to improve defensive play, which Singleton said has been up and down.

“I think we’re starting to really trust each other,’’ Loethen said. “I can really trust my infield and it helps a lot.”

Morgan LeCluyse, MU’s lone senior, has also played a vocal role, helping her teammates with various aspects of the game.

“She and Erin Kalka, they’ve been able to not just say the easy things, but say the hard things to their teammates when they need to,” Singleton said.

LeCluyse said she has no qualms about advising struggling players.

“I try to help people out when they get in that and just remind them, ‘Hey just relax, it’s a game, have fun with it,’’’ she said. “If their head is in the wrong place I’m just going to say something because I would expect that from my teammates, too.”

LeCluyse leads the Tigers with 29 hits and said many of the team’s problems have come from the rise and fall in its intensity levels.

Throughout March, MU found itself on several rocky trips. The team has been on the road since March 7, when it swept Drake in a three-game homestand.

After losing four of five games in Arizona, MU split six games on its trip to Oregon. Things began to turn around in Texas; the Tigers began to overcome inconsistencies and opened conference play with two victories against the University of Texas. MU is third in the Big 12.

“We tried to use the months of February and March as a spring training to figure things out,” Singleton said. “Now we’re in conference and if last week is any indication, we’re exactly where we want to be for Big 12.”

Intensity, coupled with simplicity, will help the Tigers stay undefeated at home.

“We were on the road forever,” LeCluyse said. “I’m just hoping we can put that behind us and just look at what we did against the University of Texas and take the good things from that and just want to get better, keeping that same intensity. When it comes to game time, you just need to play ball.”

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