Ty Singleton was having flashbacks to April 1985.
Singelton, Missouri’s softball coach, could not get the image of Sidd Finch, a fictitious New York Mets pitching prospect, out of his head.
What prompted this in the first inning of the Tigers’ five inning 11-2 victory against Drake on Sunday at University Field bordered on the bizarre.
Pitcher Jessica Hicks trotted to the mound for the Bulldogs (8-7) with a tennis shoe on her left foot and a blue cleat on her right.
After giving up seven hits, six runs and two home runs to Missouri batters using this selection of footwear, Hicks thought it was time for a change.
When Kendra Power, Missouri’s ninth hitter, stepped to the plate with one out, Hicks replaced the tennis shoe with the matching left cleat.
She fared no better after the switch. Maybe she should have tried going barefoot.
The Tigers (20-2) scored four more runs in the inning on a grand slam by winning pitcher Jen Bruck (10-1). They sent 13 batters to the plate.
Bruck, who batted second for Missouri, also hit a two-run shot earlier in the inning.
She had the odd distinction of hitting a home run both when Hicks wore the tennis shoe and both cleats.
In the dugout, Missouri players were amused at the footwear follies of the opposing pitcher.
“We were making a joke about it,” Bruck said.
Meanwhile, Singleton was reminded of the April Fools’ Day joke Sports Illustrated played on readers nearly 20 years ago.
A creation of writer George Plimpton, Finch allegedly learned to throw 168 mph fastballs in the Tibetan mountains. He was also fussy about his shoes.
A photo of Finch pitching with his left foot bare and his right foot clad in a hiking boot appeared in the magazine.
“If it would have been a boot, I would have been a little more concerned,” Singleton said, laughing.
He was more serious about the way his players ignored Hicks’ situation and focused on their at-bats.
“One thing I ask them to do is, ‘I want you to put a curtain in front of that pitcher’,” Singleton said. “You can’t see the pitcher. All you see is the arm and the ball being released.
“They did that. They saw what the ball was doing and they hit it where it was at.”