Missouri and Kansas haven’t met on the athletic field since the Tigers left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference prior to the 2012-13 season.
That might change during the upcoming NCAA Division I softball regional, which begins Friday at University Field in Columbia, and has a distinct old Big Eight feel.
Missouri, 41-16, which hosts the double-elimination regional, battles Bradley at 3 p.m. after the Jayhawks, 33-21, tussle with Big Ten co-champion Nebraska, 40-15, at 12:30 p.m.
“I don’t know how much of that is by design or by statistics,” Tigers coach Ehren Earleywine said of the regional draw. “It sometimes, when you look at those pairings, you do wonder how much of it is for the intrigue factor or the wow factor from a media perspective.”
Count Earleywine among those hoping for a renewal of the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River.
“It would be good,” he said. “I think it would be good for both schools. I would love to see KU play us in all sports. I think that needs to be renewed. We need to move on from whatever hard feelings there were about us moving to the SEC. I don’t quite understand them anyway. I guess it’s not my job to understand them, but I think the people in Missouri and Kansas and the Midwest enjoyed that rivalry.”
The Tigers’ and Jayhawks’ rosters are loaded with players from Kansas City, who are particularly invested in the Border War.
Blue Springs graduates Ashtin Stephens, a sophomore second baseman, and Mackenzie Sykes, a senior outfielder, play for Missouri.
There also are five Kansas City-area graduates — sophomore outfielder Shannon McGinley (SM East), freshman pitcher Sophia Templin (De Soto), freshman utility Lily Behrmann (BV West), senior catcher Mikki Bruce (SM West) and sophomore pitcher Kelsey Kessler (Blue Springs) — on Kansas’ roster.
“With those handful of kids that are from the KC area, they’ll be excited about the potential matchup between KU and Mizzou,” Earleywine said. “Just generally speaking, the idea of Kansas being in our regional will promote really good crowds as well. It adds a couple of twists that you may not get in your typical regional.”
The Tigers are the No. 15 overall seed for the NCAA national championship tourney.
Missouri and Kansas aren’t guaranteed to meet, but if both squads win on Friday then the matchup would materialize Saturday.
There’s also the possibility of meeting on the bracket’s backside Saturday depending on how both teams fare against the Cornhuskers.
“I’d love to see it renewed,” Earleywine said of the MU-KU rivalry. “I know that’s probably not going to happen, but hopefully we can get a small sampling of that and play KU here in the regional.”