COLUMBIA — It took a blowout loss earlier in the day and more than 12 innings over the course of the weekend, but the No. 6 Missouri softball team finally figured out Hofstra star Olivia Galati on Sunday.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
In an NCAA Regional game that essentially amounted to a winner-take-all showdown for the right to advance to the Super Regional, the Tigers received a complete-game shutout from star pitcher Chelsea Thomas and pounded out eight hits against Galati in a 5-0 win over the Pride at University Field.
“We just finally got enough looks at (Galati), and it was her fifth game (of the weekend),” said Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine, whose team improved to 38-12. “Once we got enough runs, it was in Chelsea Thomas’ hands, and we know how that normally ends.”
The Tigers entered the day needing to win one of two games against the Pride to advance to the next round of the NCAA tournament. But after Hofstra’s dominating 10-0 win over Missouri in the first game, it would have been understandable if there was a sense of concern or panic in the air.
“We’re all pretty mature as a team, so everybody knew what we had to do,” said senior Nicole Hudson. “Everyone was pretty calm and collected. We just had to make adjustments, and we knew she (Galati) would be tired.”
It didn’t take long for Missouri — which only compiled a total of five hits and one run off Galati in their first two games against her this weekend — to put something together against Hofstra’s ace in the second game Sunday. The Tigers struck in the bottom of the first, as Hudson doubled and came home on a single by Mackenzie Sykes.
Missouri added to its lead in the bottom of the second with a solo blast by Kelsea Roth, and the Tigers seemed primed to strike again in the fourth, when a single by Corrin Genovese and a double by Roth gave Missouri runners on second and third with one out. But Princess Krebs hit into a fielder’s choice, and Galati escaped the threat by striking out Rachel Hay.
Missouri, however, had all the runs it needed with Chelsea Thomas on the mound. Thomas, who allowed eight hits in her win over Hofstra on Saturday, was much sharper Sunday, allowing only one hit and striking out nine as she improved to 24-4 on the season and validated Earleywine’s decision to save her for game two against a tired Galati.
“It’s a tremendous amount of relief,” Earleywine said of the win. “I could have ended up looking like the dumbest coach in America had we lost the second game.”
But with Thomas cruising, the Tigers effectively put the Pride away in the fifth. After a leadoff double by Emily Crane, who scored when Jenna Marston reached on a throwing error, Hudson put Missouri up 5-0 with a two-run home run to right.
The dominating performance brought a pleasant end to a day that began disastrously for Missouri, as Hofstra, 46-13, scored nine runs in the second inning of the first game off Hudson as the Pride run-ruled the Tigers — who also committed four errors and were outhit nine to four — in five innings.
With the win, Missouri now advances to the Super Regional round, where it will play host tot he No. 11 Washington Huskies, winners of the Washington regional, in a best-of-three series at University Field starting Thursday.
At the very least, Missouri will have history on its side. The last time the Tigers advanced to the Women’s College World Series, in 2011, they beat the Huskies in the super regional.