Ty Singleton entered this season, his second as the Missouri softball coach, needing to come up with an encore.
After earning Big 12 Coach of the Year honors in 2003 and leading the Tigers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, it seemed as if Singleton would have a hard time following such an act, but he did not disappoint.
Despite having nine new players on his 17-player roster, Singleton and the Tigers again exceeded expectations and are back in the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri faces Louisville today at 4 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Region 2, double-elimination tournament at UCLA. The Tigers are the No. 4 seed, and the Cardinals are the No. 5 seed.
If Missouri wins, it will play the UCLA-Mississippi Valley winner Friday at 4:30 p.m. UCLA is the defending national champion and the region’s No. 1 seed.
If the Tigers lose, they will play the UCLA-Mississippi Valley loser Friday at 11 a.m.
“This is going to be a first-time experience for more than half the team,” Singleton said. “But it is nice to be back at regionals because the whole point of the season is to get better and better and make it back to the postseason.”
Missouri (29-24) finished the season strong, winning eight of its past 10 games. The Tigers finished third in the Big 12 regular-season standings and advanced to the Big 12 Tournament championship game, losing 1-0 to Nebraska on Saturday.
Singleton said his team knows the importance of getting off to a good start in NCAA Regional play. Last season, the Tigers lost their first regional game and made an early exit from the tournament after Wright State upset them in the second game.
“We really want to take care of the first game against Louisville,” Singleton said. “That will help us in doing everything we can to win this region and to go to the College World Series.”
Missouri is making its ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and will look for its first win against Louisville (40-17). The Cardinals are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance after completing the most successful season in the program’s five years.
The Tigers are 0-3 against the Cardinals and Singleton said all he knows about Louisville is what he has read in scouting reports.
“I know they have some speed at the top of the lineup and they did well in the Conference USA but that is about all I know that is concrete,” Singleton said.
“We just have to control what we can control and that will be our effort, our approach and our focus.”
Each of the eight region winners advances to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City on May 27-31.