Tigers put minds to it

Missouri’s mental approach helps defeat Kansas.
Thursday, April 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:51 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Rhythm and the right brain helped Missouri get comfortable in the batters’ box Wednesday.

The Tigers defeated Kansas 7-0 at University Field to stay undefeated at home and in the Big 12 Conference. Their unique approach paid off not only in Erin Kalka’s pitching, but also in their six hits.

“We really put a lot of work in the mental game, we talk about how to be right-brained and left-brained,” coach Ty Singleton said. “Erin, when she goes to throw that pitch, she has to be using that right hemisphere of the brain because that is where the rhythmical side of your brain is, where you perform smooth athletic functions.”

Kalka pictures her pitches before she throws, focuses on deep breathing and writes an evaluation of her performance after every game. She threw 11 strikeouts and gave up one walk and one hit against the Jayhawks (23-17-1, 2-4). She said Kansas was overeager.

“They were really aggressive so I didn’t have to throw a perfect strike every time, I could just throw them something tempting,” Kalka said. “I was just focusing on my approach.”

Coming together

Kalka’s teammates are starting to see similar success with their hitting. Missouri (18-19, 5-0) got hits off all three Kansas pitchers. The Tigers hit two home runs and two doubles against the Jayhawks.

“Erin bought into it from day one, and they saw Erin start to take off and they go, ‘Maybe there is something to this,’ and everybody else started to get on board,” Singleton said. “With nine newcomers this year, there’s still that, ‘What do they really mean by that right-brained, left-brained thing,’ but they’re getting better and better at it.”

Heather Kunkel and Kendra Power hit their second home runs of the season late in the game, but by then the Tigers had established a strong lead.

Though Kunkel’s run was not key to the Tigers’ victory, she said that increased hitting is coming at the right time.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs and we’re starting to come together,” she said. “Now’s the time to start doing that. We’re looking at this as a whole new season, taking it one game at a time.”

Missouri scored three runs on two hits in the second to extend its lead to 4-0. Joanne Loethen’s two-out, bases-loaded double drove in Leanne Bowers, Alli Kennewell and Ashley Hays.

“I think after this weekend we didn’t hit so well with two outs,” Kunkel said. “Coach told us you need to make the adjustments, put the ball in play and make something happen.”

A new approach

After low-scoring victories against Oklahoma State over the weekend, Singleton recommended watching the ball carefully while trying to hit it.

“Coach Ty said to see a spot on the ball and hit it,” Loethen said. “I was just trying to do that a little bit and guard the plate.”

Loethen, a first baseman, had three RBIs and five putouts.

“Erin is doing a great job right now and it’s very important for us to help her out,” Loethen said.

Bowers and Hays scored two runs apiece.

Bowers, the Tigers’ leadoff hitter, hit a single in the first inning and was hit by a pitch in the second. She drove in Hays with a double in the fourth.

“I think I’ve been getting more comfortable,” Bowers said. “I need to see a lot of pitches in my first at-bat so we can tell what the pitcher has, and try and get on base any way I can.”

Hays, who has been in and out of the batting order this season, is seeing the results of getting more comfortable.

“I’m seeing the ball a lot better,” she said. “I was really excited about Kansas today and wanted to play big and take the right approach. Not being as excited, just focusing on the process just to drive the ball up the middle.”

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