Hosting its first regional game since 2016, Missouri softball did not disappoint the near-full-capacity crowd at Mizzou Softball Stadium.
On the back of sophomore pitcher Jordan Weber's one-hit NCAA Tournament debut, the Tigers dominated the Flames. The hosts earned an 8-0 run-rule victory, ending the game in the sixth inning.
"I'm just so unbelievably proud of (Weber)," Missouri coach Larissa Anderson said. "They've never played in an atmosphere like this. She's never played in an NCAA regional and in front of a crowd this size and knowing what's at stake, so I'm just so proud that she responded the way she did."
Starting five hours and six minutes later than initially planned, the two teams took the field. Weber started her nearly unblemished evening in style, striking out two of the three batters. She didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, when Isabelle Garcia popped one that was just out of the reach of shortstop Jenna Laird.
"You can't ever take a pitch off, can't ever take an at-bat off, can't ever take any game off" Weber said. "We just have to keep going at it one at a time, and I think we'll do really, really well."
In the bottom half of the frame, the Tigers got a leadoff home run from center fielder Brooke Wilmes. Her home run was Missouri's 83rd as a team this season, which is a new program record. From there, Missouri never looked at risk of losing the game.
"(Wilmes' home run) completely set the tone for us just going into the game," MU catcher Hatti Moore said. "We had a plan from the beginning. She talked about her approach with her first at-bat, and I think she got the crowd pumped up."
Moore ended the game in the sixth inning with a two-run walk-off single to right field that triggered the mercy rule.
"You always dream of walking it off," Moore said. "It was really fun, just seeing the crowd and my teammates super pumped after the game, it was awesome. We knew we could do it, and putting up as many runs as we can was just a really good feeling going into tomorrow and the next day."
As for the Flames, coach Lynn Curylo felt as though they made too many costly mistakes. Two errors on a Cayla Kessinger single led to two runs being scored for Missouri, with Kessinger being one of those runners.
"I think that nerves got the best of us today," Curylo said. "It took us a while to settle in, we made some mistakes on defense that you just can't make in postseason play, and I think our hitters need to do a better job of sticking to their plan."
With the win, Missouri faces Frankenstein, Mo., native Sammey Bunch and Northern Iowa. Bunch set a Missouri Valley career home runs record with a three-run shot against Iowa State.
"I was just trying to slow all the moments down, really enjoy it," Bunch said. "Being a fifth-year senior, I know this is my one and only shot to perform on a regional setting, so that was really my focus all week."
With Northern Iowa up next, Anderson said that Missouri will have to put it in a position where it can't think it can win.
"(Northern Iowa) played really well this morning — well, the first game of the day today," Anderson said. "I know they're going to come out and they're going to have a ton of energy. They're going to try to keep us off balance, but the real thing is we have to have more energy than them, we have to quiet them down."
The Tigers are set to face the Panthers at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Softball Stadium. UIC plays Iowa State in the elimination game at 3:30 p.m. The winner of the elimination game will then play the loser of the Missouri-Northern Iowa game at 6 p.m.