For the second game in a row, an NCAA Tournament debutant pitcher tossed a one-hit shutout for Missouri softball.
The Tigers got a career day from freshman Laurin Krings, who completed the game with 10 strikeouts, three walks and one hit allowed. That helped the No. 8 seed Tigers to a 4-0 win over Northern Iowa to book a spot in the Columbia Regional championship.
Krings held a no-hitter through 6⅔ innings, just one batter away from completing a no-hitter 10 years to the day from Missouri’s last postseason no-hitter — Chelsea Thomas against DePaul.
“I really wasn’t trying to pay attention to the no-hitter or anything,” Krings said. “I was just trying to be the best I could for my team, and when (Taylor Hogan) got that pooter shot, it’s gonna happen. My team still came out and we finished the game.”
It was a battle of the two pitchers for much of the game. Northern Iowa pitcher Kailyn Packard tossed 6⅓ innings before being replaced by Hailey Sanders. Packard had six strikeouts before being relieved.
Missouri coach Larissa Anderson was impressed by the Panthers’ ace, who came into the game with a 1.57 ERA and a 22-6 record on the season.
“(Packard) threw an unbelievable game against us,” Anderson said. “She really kept us off-balance.”
“She had a nasty curveball outside,” Anderson added later. “It just looked like we expanded the zone out there.”
The MU coach had a glowing review for her starter as well.
“And then Krings, I mean, phenomenal outing,” Anderson said. “Disappointed that we didn’t get the no-no. She just threw so great, but it happens.She’s a freshman, and she’s going to have more opportunities.”
The pitching battle was lost for Packard in the fourth inning. Kimberly Wert launched her 17th home run of the season onto the soggy berm behind the left-center field wall to give the Tigers the lead.
“In my first at-bat, I obviously struck out,” Wert said. “I came back in the dugout and Chris (Malveaux) immediately said, ‘You are all over this girl. She’s not getting it past you again.’ So that was my mentality in my next at-bat. I was like, ‘You’re not beating me again,’ and I didn’t let her.”
The Tigers got an insurance run from Brooke Wilmes’ solo shot in the sixth. The ball just barely cleared the wall in left-center and bounced back onto the warning track.
Missouri added two additional runs in the top of the seventh on an RBI single from Kendyll Bailey, who reached second on an error. The Missouri second baseman’s hit brought home two pinch-runners, ended Packard’s day and put the Tigers up 4-0.
“A lot of times, I’ll put the pinch runners in to try to avoid the double play,” Anderson said. “That part of the lineup — they are not blessed with a lot of speed — so I’m putting them in. Also knowing that we have a lot of doubles hitters, especially when we have (Emma) Raabe and Kendyll Bailey, so if the ball does get in the gap, we might be able to score that person from first base, which we were able to do in that situation.”
Missouri plays in the regional championship at 1 p.m. Sunday for the chance to go to the super regional round, which would be hosted in Columbia if the Tigers advance. Should MU lose the game, a second game would be played at 3:30 p.m. to determine the Columbia Regional’s representative. The super regional opponent would be either Liberty or James Madison after No. 9 Tennessee was eliminated Saturday.
The Tigers will play Iowa State, which beat Northern Iowa 4-3 on Saturday night. The Panthers beat the Cyclones 8-0 in the first game of the Columbia Regional before the Cyclones ousted Illinois-Chicago on Saturday afternoon.
“We don’t care who we play, and that’s really the bottom line,” Anderson said. “That’s been our philosophy all year. We’re not going to prepare any differently. ... At this point in the season, I say all the time, ‘The hay’s in the barn.’ There’s nothing more that we need to do and prepare for to attack whoever we’re playing tomorrow.”