Missouri softball hosts James Madison in its first super regional series since 2016, with the first game scheduled for Friday at Mizzou Softball Stadium. The Tigers, the No. 8 national seed, come in as the favorites against the Dukes, who upset No. 9 Tennessee to advance to this stage. The winner of the best-of-three series advances to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City next week.
“Like any team, I think (making the Women's College World Series would) be a dream come true,” Missouri catcher Hatti Moore said. “That’s something that we’ve all dreamt of since we were kids, watching girls like us play at this level. We know we can do it, it’s just getting past these two games and really push it through and focusing on these next two wins.”
Standing in the way of that dream are the 37-1 Colonial Athletic Association champion Dukes.
James Madison comes into the weekend boasting an impressive record, with its only defeat coming in an early-season 5-4 loss to Elon. Missouri coach Larissa Anderson, who coached against James Madison on numerous occasions while at Hofstra, is expecting the Dukes to be a tough matchup.
“(James Madison is) going to be well-prepared,” Anderson said. “They have that mid-major mentality, and that mid-major mentality is to go show the power fives that they can play ball, so they have that added chip on their shoulder.”
Anderson cited outfielder Kate Gordon as one JMU player she doesn't want to let beat her team. The redshirt senior comes to Columbia with 18 home runs and 55 RBI at the top of the Dukes’ lineup.
“(Gordon is a) phenomenal player all the way across the board,” Anderson said. “She has the ability to be able to change the game. She is a fierce batter in the batter’s box, can hit bad balls. Those types of players make me nervous because it’s really tough to get them out.”
In order to avoid an upset, Missouri will have to be “the aggressor,” Anderson said. She said that MU cannot afford to look past the Dukes.
“Sometimes, we are the biggest game on someone’s schedule,” Anderson said. “JMU is going to come in here and want to destroy our entire season, so we can’t take them lightly. We have to make sure that we stay focused and we counterattack and we make adjustments and we go out and we try to be the aggressor.”
In the Tigers camp, the players and coaching staff are excited for the weekend ahead. Competing in Oklahoma City is a goal the team set out at the beginning of the season, and being two wins away has team spirit high.
“There’s a lot of excitement every day coming to practice,” center fielder Brooke Wilmes said. “We’re just super stoked and so ready to go. Unfortunately, we have these three days that we have to practice in between, but all of us are super excited and we’re ready to get going.”
Focusing on the games this weekend and not getting distracted by the Women's College World Series has been a focus for the team, Moore said. The prospect of Oklahoma City has been on everyone’s minds, but she said that they need to get over the line this weekend.
“It’s something that we’ve been working on and talking about in the locker room and in the dugout,” Moore said. “Just saying, ‘One game at a time, one pitch at a time’ and just going at it that way so we don’t get too excited for what’s ahead.”