By Karl Roskamp and Peter Terpstra
The No. 11 Missouri Tigers found themselves in a deep hole Sunday afternoon but were able to dig themselves out, beating No. 4 Tennessee 12-8 in a halted game at University Field.
“That’s one of the coolest games I’ve ever been apart of as a player or a coach,” coach Ehren Earleywine said.
The day didn’t start off so amazing. Starting pitcher and senior Nicole Hudson found herself down 7-2 going into the bottom of the second inning on senior day. The Volunteers compiled nine hits in the first two innings, including a six-run second inning. Second basemen Lauren Gibson highlighted the offensive outburst with two home runs and four runs batted in. Tennessee’s hitting would only serve as fuel for Hudson.
“When I’m out there, I’m so frustrated when I’m getting knocked around, so it makes me that much more eager to step into the box,” she said.
With that eagerness, Hudson hit a grand slam in the bottom half of the inning to give the Tigers an 8-7 lead. The home run was her second of the game and 15th of the season. She finished 2-3 with six RBIs. Before Hudson’s home run, second basemen Emily Crane’s bases-loaded walk cut the lead to 7-3 and center fielder Jenna Marston reached on an error to make it 7-4. Hudson wanted more run support.
“I told the girls if we could put 10 runs on the board, then we’d probably be good,” she said. “We went and did it plus two.”
After Tennessee shortstop Madison Shipman tied the game at eight on a sacrifice fly in the top of the third inning, Missouri responded with catcher Rachel Hay’s two-run home run to give the Tigers the lead for good. Missouri hitters finished with 12 runs on nine hits with four walks. Earleywine attributes the success to how relaxed they were going into the game.
“They were just really loose all day. Like scary loose,” he said. “I think when they realized Nicole was pitching, that loosened them up. Maybe they’re thinking there’s not as much pressure for us to win this because we are conceding with Nicole on the mound.”
Hudson said the win was big for the underdog Tigers.
“This was perfect. It was exactly what we needed,” Hudson said. “Looking on paper at this match up, I don’t think anyone was expecting us to do what we did today and that just shows you the fighting in this team.”
Earleywine said in a post game press conference he didn’t start ace pitcher Chelsea Thomas because he didn’t feel as though the game was a must-win and chose to rest her instead. Hudson was willing to take the circle against the best offense in the Southeastern Conference.
“If Chelsea’s healthy, and she is where she needs to be, then it’s all worth it,” Hudson said. “I’d go out there and get beat around a million more times if I could.”
Hudson finished with six innings pitched, eight earned runs, 12 hits and three strikeouts. She does not officially get the win because the game was halted. Tennessee had a “drop dead time” at 2:00 p.m. where they had to stop play in order to catch its 5:30 flight from St. Louis. According to Earleywine, Tennessee can ask for the game to resume in Lexington during the SEC Conference Tournament if desired, and Missouri cannot object.
Missouri is scheduled to play again on May 8 in the SEC Conference Tournament at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky. The opponent is to be announced.