Sometimes down, never out
Softball Tigers fight their way deep into postseason play
Pitcher Stacy Delaney earned two wins and a save as the Mizzou softball team captured an NCAA regional title by winning three straight games in Iowa City. Photos by Joel Kowsky, Missouri Media Relations.
Going into the bottom of the seventh and final inning at this past weekend’s NCAA regional final in Iowa City, Mizzou’s softball team could have lost heart. A three-run homer had just put the Iowa Hawkeyes up 4-3. A loss would force another game to determine a regional champ.
Instead, the Tigers (47-15) tuned out the Hawkeye-heavy crowd and got down to tactical business — a momentum-shifting walk, a stolen base, a single, a sacrifice fly for a game-tying score, and two intentional walks that set up a bases-loaded situation. Second baseman Andee Allen then delivered a shot to the center field wall and sent outfielder Rhea Taylor home for the winning run. With that, Mizzou had extended its season, won an NCAA regional title for the first time since 1994 and earned its first-ever trip to an NCAA super regional.
“The offense pulls through,” says pitcher Stacy Delaney, who had two wins and one save in the regional tournament, where the Tigers beat host school Iowa twice and regional No. 1 seed Long Beach State once. “It’s nice to know as a pitcher that you have that support.”
Coach Ehren Earleywine rarely doubts his team’s ability to put runs on the scoreboard late in a tough game. They are earning a reputation as a come-from-behind team. He just wishes they’d do it earlier. “It’s adding gray hairs to my head for sure,” he says.
Junior Lindsey Ubrun, shown here hitting against Long Beach State, hit the game-winning home run in Mizzou’s first victory over Iowa at the NCAA regional in Iowa City.
The team’s next opponent may be adding gray hairs, too. The Tigers head to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a best-of-three series starting May 23 against national No. 3 seed Alabama (54-6), a team making its fourth straight super regional appearance. The winner of that series earns a trip to the College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Earleywine knows that the regional win takes his program forward a step, but he doesn’t have time to think much about it now. “We’re not going down there with the mentality that we’re happy to be there,” he says. “We’re going down there with the mentality to win two games.”
Seniors Jen Bruck and Amanda Renth both have plenty of postseason experience, and both actually have played and won at Alabama, where the Crimson Tide draws a big and loud crowd. They’re trying to prepare their teammates for the volume, the heckling and the atmosphere under the lights in Tuscaloosa.
Still, Bruck says the regional win shows that the Tigers can’t be counted out. “Not getting down and not giving up are big things,” she says. “A lot of people don’t even know what we are capable of because we haven’t shown it yet.”
Update May 25: Mizzou's postseason run ends with Alabama victories
Read more in: Sports