Missouri senior Eli Daniel pitches in the seventh inning

Missouri senior Eli Daniel pitches in the seventh inning against Ole Miss on March 7 at Mizzou Softball Stadium. The NCAA announced Monday that it is giving its spring athletes an extra year of eligibility, but Daniel hasn’t announced her plans yet.

One day after run-ruling Mississippi 9-1, Missouri softball had an opportunity to clinch its first series win in a Southeastern Conference opener since 2016.

“One of our goals this year is to win every series,” head coach Larissa Anderson said.

Missouri softball did so Saturday. The No. 23 Tigers (18-6) defeated Mississippi (12-12) 6-1.

Missouri applied pressure by reaching base early and often, something Anderson looked for from her lineup coming into Saturday.

“That was one of the big things that we talked about yesterday,” Anderson said. “I thought we set the tone early.”

Kimberly Wert led the Tigers with two RBI, both coming with two outs. Wert’s first RBI came off a single in the first inning, while she drove in her other run off a double in the fourth inning. Wert earned her fourth multi-RBI game of the season against the Rebels.

“I was just thinking ‘Hit the ball,’” Wert said. “I know there’s runners on base ahead of me, so they did their job. It was my turn to do my job.”

Missouri saw contributions throughout the lineup. Jazmyn Rollin, Hatti Moore and Kendyll Bailey each drove in a run against Ole Miss. Cayla Kessinger extended her hitting streak to 13 games with a double in the sixth inning. The Tigers totaled 10 hits Saturday.

“I thought our at-bats were great the entire way through the lineup,” Anderson said.

Emma Nichols took the circle for Missouri on Saturday. The freshman rebounded from her previous outing where she gave up four earned runs and got a no decision against Wichita State on March 1st. Saturday against Ole Miss, Nichols made quick work of the Rebels lineup. Nichols only allowed three hits in 4⅓ innings pitched.

The Tigers’ biggest scare came in the fifth inning. Nichols started to lose her control, hitting two batters and walking another. Ole Miss capitalized off Nichols’ struggles, driving in its lone run in the form of a Jessica Puk RBI single.

“I just had to keep in mind to stay calm.” Nichols said. “Hatti did a really good job of reminding me to stay calm. Knowing that I have such a good defense behind me really helps.”

Anderson felt that Nichols started to slow her pitches down and let the ball get away from her.

“She’s a freshman, so we’re educating her along the way,” Anderson said.

Megan Schumacher relieved Nichols, inheriting a bases loaded jam with only one out. Schumacher avoided any further damage, forcing a double play and stranding the runners.

“She made some great pitches,” Anderson said. “I really haven’t put her in that environment a lot this year. The relay information that I got was that she was throwing great in the bullpen.”

Eli Daniel came on in the seventh inning and shut down any chance Ole Miss had at making a comeback, securing the win for Missouri.

“It really sets the tone and the momentum going into the long season,” Anderson said. “You always want to start off on a great foot.”

While the Tigers clinched the series, Anderson still sees room for improvement in the pitching department.

“We’re giving up some free passes,” Anderson said. “The key is keeping that leadoff batter off base.”

Wert feels that, even with the series clinched, Missouri still has unfinished business to take care of Sunday against Ole Miss.

“It sends a message out that we’re not messing around,” Wert said. “We’re here to play. We’re planning for the sweep.”

The Tigers will finish their series against Ole Miss at 4 p.m. Sunday at Mizzou Softball Stadium. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.

  • Sports reporter, spring 2020 Studying sports journalism Reach me at tdhvf9@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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