Coming off of a Super Regional upset over No. 2 seed UCLA, the 11th-ranked and unseeded Missouri softball team is prepared to return to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in 15 years. Entering the double elimination tournament with a program best 50-10 record, the Tigers are the only unseeded squad to receive a berth to the eight-team tournament and the sole representative of the Big 12 Conference.
Missouri will take on Arizona State in its first game of the week-long National Championship, with first pitch set for 2 p.m. Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla. ESPN will air the game live, with Pam Ward and Michele Smith calling the action from the booth and Holly Rowe on the sideline. The second of four games on the day, the meeting between the Tigers and Sun Devils is the 13th in program history, first in postseason competition and first since 2007. Arizona State owns a two game advantage over Missouri, 7-5, in a series that dates back to 1983.
The Tigers’ fourth trip in the 34 year history of the softball program to the WCWS, Missouri has finished no higher than fifth in its previous three outings. Missouri’s fifth place showing came in 1991 under the direction of then-Head Coach Jay Miller. That same year, the Tigers were awarded the Big Eight title as well as a regional title before advancing to the World Series in Oklahoma City. Missouri Head Coach Ehren Earleywine, in only his third year at the helm of the program, becomes the second fastest Tiger softball coach to take a team to the WCWS. 1983 coach Joyce Compton accomplished the feat in just her first year with the reigns, while Miller took the team in his fourth year as Head Coach.
Owning a 5-1 record in NCAA postseason play, and 8-1 mark since the start of the Big 12 Championships, May 9, Missouri has captured titles in each of its last three weeks of competition. On May 10, after outscoring their three opponents, 16-0, the Tigers won the program’s second Big 12 Championship title. One week later, Missouri was awarded the NCAA Regional crown, marking the first time ever that a Missouri softball team won back-to-back regional titles. The following week, the Tigers went to Los Angeles and battled with the second-seeded UCLA Bruins, a perennial powerhouse with 11 National Titles. Opening with a game one win, Missouri struggled in game two, but rebounded with a 9-1 victory in five innings to lay claim to Missouri’s first ever NCAA Super Regional title. Missouri is 25-19 in NCAA postseason competition and 8-3 in the last two seasons alone.
Since beginning their run for a National Title May 15, at the NCAA Regional held in Columbia, the Tiger pitching staff has managed a 1.58 ERA with its three hurlers allowing a mere nine earned runs in 40 innings of play. NCAA opponents are averaging just .189 against Missouri while the Tiger bats are hitting at a .265 clip. Senior Lindsey Ubrun owns the squad’s best average at .500, one of three Missouri players hitting over .400 and one of five to hit above .300. Missouri’s aggressiveness on the diamond has accounted for six postseason home runs, two by redshirt junior Gina Schneider, eight stolen bases, four by sophomore Shana White, and a .961 fielding percentage. Missouri has come on strong for postseason play and looks to continue its momentum into the 28th annual WCWS.