Mizzou softball rides late-season change of fortunes into SEC tournament
Larissa Anderson sat her team down in the Mizzou Softball Complex’s visitor dugout before last weekend’s series at Alabama.
Missouri’s head coach had the team think back to a month prior, when they were underachieving, having been swept by Ole Miss.
Anderson asked a question to her team, which stood as one of the hottest in college softball before the series.
“Why were we in that position a month ago and why are we where we are right now?” Anderson asked.
It was power-hitting senior Kim Wert who came up with the answer.
“We were trying to be something that we weren’t,” Anderson recalled Wert saying. “We were trying too much, we were trying too hard, we were trying to replicate rather than just do what we know how to do.”
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The Tigers improved their fortunes on the tail end of the SEC season, earning sweeps at both Kentucky and Texas A&M. In the process, they had more fun. They hope to continue that trend in the SEC Tournament tomorrow.
Missouri faces Auburn at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Gainesville, Florida. The game will be shown on the SEC Network.
Anderson even allowed the players a bit more freedom, giving them the option to attend a Chris Stapleton concert at Kroger Field in Lexington, which she said was her first time doing something like that as a coach.
"They sat back and appreciated the opportunity and now we can just sit back and have fun and not put so much pressure on ourselves to perform,” Anderson said.
Missouri dropped the Alabama series, losing the final two games after pulling off an upset on Friday. They ended up with the seventh seed in the SEC softball tournament, where they will take on Auburn, the 10th seed on Wednesday.
If they win that game, MU will get another try at the Crimson Tide on Thursday. To pull off an upset there, and to make a deeper run in the tournament, the Tigers will need to do something they couldn’t throughout the weekend series: score runners.
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"It’s about having loud outs,” Anderson said, after referencing the team’s abundance of runners left on base throughout the Alabama games. “We didn’t have very competitive outs and it’s OK to have a strikeout but it has to be competitive, we can’t throw it away. We just have to bear down and maybe be a little more selective with our pitches in those situations.”
A call for change
In the third game of the Alabama series, a ball hit by Alabama’s Ashley Prange hit padding towards the top of the wall and bounced into play. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the play was ruled as a home run, which was not reviewable.
Anderson said Tuesday she was disappointed by what happened and hoped the moment would serve as an opportunity for change.
“We have (video review) on the field for a reason, to get the call right,” Anderson said. “It’s frustrating that it can’t be right. Moving forward, I’ve spoken with a lot of different people on a lot of different levels and the last two years, video review is in its trial period."
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Anderson said she would like all scoring plays to be subject to review.
“It's also my hope that umpires learn from this and let the ball play out,” Anderson said.
Matt Stahl is the Missouri athletics beat reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @mattstahl97.