On a cool late-spring afternoon at University Field, Missouri Tiger softball came just short of the program’s seventh Women’s College World Series, losing to the Washington Huskies, 1-0, in game two of its NCAA Super Regional matchup. The loss, which brings the Tigers’ season to a close, was in large part due to a strong pitching performance by the Huskies, who threw a combined two-hitter.
Mizzou starter Chelsea Thomas (Pleasantville, Iowa) was valiant in defeat, also throwing a two-hitter and allowing only one run in 7.0 innings. Despite her strong performance on the mound, the Tiger bats fell silent, and Washington, on the back of a Victoria Hayward leadoff solo home, run was able to claim victory – and a berth in the Women’s College World Series.
Fresh off last night’s eight inning, 2-1 loss, the resilient Tigers looked to pounce on the Huskies early. In the top of the first, following a Nicole Hudson (Webb City, Mo) walk, Mackenzie Sykes(Blue Springs, Mo) hit a rocket to deep left center field that seemed destined for the outfield bleachers – only to be robbed by Washington CF Kylee Lahners — who flashed some amazing leather to pull back the would-be two-run homer. The Huskies then showed some firepower of their own when in the bottom of the first, Victoria Hayward hit a solo home run to deep right which gave Washington an early 1-0 lead. It was all the Huskies needed.
The Tigers best chance to crack the Huskies came in the top of the sixth inning, when Walker’s bid for a no-hitter was broken up after freshman 2B Emily Crane (Troy, Mo.) hit a hard line drive back to the mound that bounced off of the Washington pitcher’s glove for a base hit. Senior catcher Jenna Marston (St. Louis, Mo.) then dug in and smacked a laser up the middle to advance Crane, putting runners on first and second.
The sequence forced Washington head coach Heather Tarr into a pitching change and Kaitlin Inglesby came on to the mound in relief. After retiring Hudson on a ground-out, Sykes hit a soft ground ball to third that allowed Crane and Marston to advance. With two outs and runners in scoring position, sophomore 1B Kelsea Roth (Yorba Linda, Calif.) came to the plate, however the usually reliable Roth was only able to muster another soft groundball that Washington easily disposed of to end the inning.
Washington again looked dangerous in the bottom of the sixth inning with the top of the order hitting. Hayward forced a walk and following a sacrifice bunt by Hooch Fagaly, Inglesby fresh off her clutch pitching performance, hit a hard ground ball to Genovese to move Hayward to second. Despite being called out initially, Hayward, was awarded first base after home plate umpire Rick Boyer determined that Roth had lifted her foot off the bag. Only a fantastic play by sophomore SSCorrin Genovese (East Amherst, N.Y.) who fired home following a hard hit ground ball to the gap on the ensuing at bat saved a run for the Tigers, keeping the Washington lead to a single run.
In their last at-bat, the Tigers went down in three batters to send the Huskies to Oklahoma City and their eleventh WCWS appearance in program history.
The loss brings an end to the storied career of Mizzou’s two-time All-American Thomas, who despite throwing 6.0 innings and holding the Huskies to only two hits, was tagged for the loss in her final game. The often-heroic Thomas walks away from University Field as the Tigers all-time leader in career wins (111).