Missouri couldn’t shake Indiana State during a first-round NCAA regional battle Friday at University Field.
The No. 10-seeded Tigers grabbed a quick 1-0 lead, but the lead remained there into the fifth inning against a Sycamores squad that entered the regional with a sub-.500 record.
Everything changed in the fifth as coach Ehren Earleywine’s squad broke out for five runs, including a three-run bomb by pinch-hitter Jordan Zolman, in a 7-0 victory.
Mizzou’s win also sets up a Border War resumption for the second straight season.
“It’s always a good game when we play Kansas, and we’re all fired up about it,” senior third baseman Angela Randazzo said. “A rival’s a rival, so we’re excited.”
Sophomore Tori Finucane, who missed the regional last season with a thumb injury, dominated Indiana State for five innings, scattering two hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
“Last year, it was rough not being able to help out, so I was really excited that I got that opportunity this year,” Finucane said.
It was especially critical with freshman left-hander Paige Lowary, who has been battling nausea for a few days, unavailable.
After breaking the game open, sophomore right-hander Cheyenne Baxter finished off Indiana State with two no-hit innings.
Seniors Corrin Genovese and Kelsea Roth extended Missouri’s lead with fifth-inning RBIs, but Zolman, a sophomore slugger from Arbyrd, Mo., delivered the knockout blow, driving a 1-2 pitch over the bleachers in the left field for a six-run lead.
“I was just looking for a pitch I could barrel and hit somewhere hard …,” Zolman said. “It felt great. I knew as soon as it came off the bat it was gone.”
Everybody in the park knew.
“Ya’ll ain’t seen nothing,” Earleywine said. “I’m telling you, in batting practice, I’ve never seen somebody hit ’em like Jordan.”
Zolman was inserted for Randazzo, who also was a hero for the Tigers. She made three sparkling defensive plays on bunts in her third straight start at third base in place of freshman Amanda Sanchez.
“We felt like if we played good defense we’d win and I felt like we played exceptional defense,” Earleywine said. “In particular Angie at third base made all the plays and that was the difference, for me, in the game.”
Sanchez — who has been hobbled by a right ankle injury, but was cleared to play Friday — gave Missouri a 1-0 lead despite grounding into a double play in the first inning and added an RBI single in sixth.
Next up, the Border War, which officially has been on hold since the Tigers left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012.
Earleywine admitted that playing KU is a big deal, but added that “the unfortunate part is getting revved up doesn’t help. This isn’t football.”
It’s the second straight season the teams will meet in regional play. The Tigers knocked off the Jayhawks 6-3 last spring.
Kansas advanced to the rematch with a 1-0 victory against Louisville in the regional opener behind senior right-handed Alicia Pille’s one-hitter.
It wasn’t without last-inning drama.
Leading off the seventh, Cardinals senior Kayla Soles crunched a ball with home-run distance deep to left field.
Kansas left fielder Shannon McGinley raced to the warning track with her back against the wall, reached high in the air and brought back the potential game-tying bomb.
“I was pretty confident that I could get it,” said McGinley, a Shawnee Mission East graduate, who singled twice in the game. “It would have been out. I just had to lean back a little bit.”
McGinley’s grab provided the only heart-stopping moment for Pille, who struck out four in her seventh shutout of the season.
“I did think it was out a little bit, just a little, but then I saw (McGinley) start camping under it at the fence …,” Pille said. “When she caught it, it was the best feeling. I’m pretty sure I jumped like a foot in the air.”
Freshman designated player Daniella Sanchez’s third-inning RBI single that ricocheted off Louisville second baseman Brittany Sims was the difference in a game that started more than a half-hour late because of lightning in the area and was delayed an hour and 43 minutes by rain after the third inning.
Missouri, 40-14, and Kansas, 39-13, meet at 10 a.m. in the winner’s bracket, while Louisville, 30-18, and Indiana State, 26-30, tussle in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m.
“This is the best team Kansas has had in a long time, so we’ve got our work cut out,” Earleywine said.
The loser between the Tigers and Jayhawks and the winner between the Cardinals and Sycamores battle in another elimination game at 3 p.m.
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NCAA Columbia regional schedule
NCAA Columbia regional schedule
Kansas 1, Louisville 0
Missouri 7, Indiana State 0
Kansas vs. Missouri, 10 a.m.
Louisville vs. Indiana State, 12:30 p.m.
Kansas-Missouri loser vs. Louisville-Indiana State winner, 3:00 p.m.
Saturday’s winners, noon (with second game to follow if unbeaten team loses)