A rough SEC opener only got rougher on Sunday afternoon, as Missouri lost all three games of its first conference series against Kentucky while scoring no runs in 21 innings.
The offensive challenges only compounded the challenges on defense, as Kentucky’s combination of deft left-handed batters and powerful right-handed batters overwhelmed the base paths and put constant pressure on Missouri’s pitchers. The Wildcats beat Mizzou 5-0 and 6-0 on Sunday after taking the series opener 5-0 on Friday night.
Cierra Harrison stood in the pitcher’s circle in the first inning talking with her catcher, Julia Crenshaw, as Larissa Anderson waited for the result of her challenge. The rest of the infield joined, waiting to see if the umpire’s review would bring the Tigers a desperately needed second out in the inning.
Kentucky’s hitters worked their way into good counts and placed hit after hit to the empty spaces in the Missouri defense, keeping runners on the bases and wearing down Harrison early in the game.
Harrison exited the game after three innings, caught in between inducing ground balls and giving the Wildcats all the strikes they needed to get their system going. She threw 37 of her 54 pitches for strikes, a healthy average relative to her other outings, induced four ground-ball outs and three fly-ball outs and walked just one batter. Her two wild pitches, both coming in the first inning, were the result of missed bunt attempts that flew off of Crenshaw’s glove as the runner on first attempted to steal second.
In the first game on Sunday afternoon, Jordan Weber shut out the Wildcats for five straight innings, but exited the sixth after putting a few runners on base and then taking a comebacker off the leg. She also finished with a solid stat line, registering 5.2 innings with a pair of earned runs on six hits and two walks.
These outings weren’t able to get the job done for the Tigers, however, as their offense stalled throughout and couldn’t provide any support for dogged pitching performance.
The Tigers’ success at the plate, more notably their lack of scoring, resulted from the relentless pitching of Stephanie Schoonover and a dismal performance with runners in scoring position.
Schoonover pitched 15.2 innings in three games during the weekend, allowing no runs across that stretch while throwing 115 pitches on Friday and 151 on Sunday. She finished a shutout with two hits and two walks while striking out 15 in her first game, a complete-game victory on Friday afternoon that set the tone for the rest of the series. She threw 1.2 in the first game of the Sunday doubleheader, then went the distance again in the series finale to complete her second complete-game shutout.
Though Schoonover’s dominance shone through in all three of her appearances, she needed to work out of several jams in the second Sunday game.
The Tigers nearly broke through in the bottom of the second, taking three consecutive two-out walks to load the bases, only for Alex Honnold to ground out to shortstop and leave their potential first run of the weekend stranded at third.
The Tigers left the bases loaded again in the bottom of the fourth, with Honnold and Crenshaw grounding out and striking out to end the inning, then another time in the sixth.
The last bases-loaded opportunity the Tigers had to close the gap came in the bottom of the seventh, when the Wildcat left fielder Vanessa Nesby ran down a slicing fly ball off the bat of Jenna Laird to hold the Tigers at bay and end the game.
The Tigers left a total of 15 base runners stranded, going just 1-12 with runners in scoring position while hitting 7-28 overall.
They are now 16-9 overall. This week brings Illinois to Columbia for a Tuesday doubleheader before a road trip to No. 4 Florida over the weekend.
Read the full article here
Leave a Reply