Tigers seek smooth start

The Missouri softball team opens its season in Tallahassee, Fla, today.

Friday, February 11, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:20 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Disastrous early-season road trips have prepared Ty Singleton for the worst.

Since he began his tenure as Missouri’s softball coach in 2003, his team’s travel schedule has seldom got off on the right foot.

He bemoaned the trip to New Mexico two years ago and the one to Gainesville, Fla., in 2004.

“We’ve gotten delayed on flights,” Singleton said. “We get in at one o’clock in the morning, we get bumped airports … all those things tend to happen this time of year with the weather changes.”

Though his goal for the team is still to win this weekend’s Seminole Classic in Tallahassee, Fla., he also wants the Tigers to keep their composure.

“I think it’s very important throughout, whatever our circumstances or situations, that we stay united to one another and committed to one another,” Singleton said.

After scrimmaging all fall and winter and then before a crowd in last Saturday’s Black and Gold intra-squad game, Missouri is ready to begin its year.

The Tigers will play both Nicholls State and Florida State twice — once each today and once each Saturday.

For a team returning 11 letter winners from an NCAA Regional qualifier, Missouri’s outlook is bright. The Tigers are looking to qualify for their first NCAA Tournament since 1994.

But Missouri faces a major challenge as the season begins: playing without ace pitcher Erin Kalka, a senior who made the All-Big 12 first team last year.

Missouri’s single-season strikeout leader (286 last year) is sidelined with a leg injury.

“It’s reasonable that she can be back by the middle of the year,” Singleton said.

Despite the setback, the Tigers are not panicking.

“It’s really hard losing Erin,” sophomore Erica Peterson said. “She’s been such a major contributor to the team. But the team is so much more than just one person, and we can overcome it.”

With the injury, different players will be given a chance to shine in Kalka’s stead.

Peterson is an accomplished lefthander who excelled in relief last year. Freshman Jen Bruck will also see action on the mound.

Singleton said that in dire situations his star outfielder, senior Ashley Hays, could pitch.

“Hopefully that’s not the case,” Singleton said. “But she’s had a 0.00 ERA. She threw last year a little bit, and she always brags about that ERA.”

Missouri is itching to get out on the diamond and test its mettle against actual competition.

“We’ve been scrimmaging all fall,” Peterson said. “We’re excited to play someone other than each other.”

“We’re pretty confident,” Hays said. “We have a young team, but I think everyone is going to step up and play really hard.”

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