University of Missouri

Mizzou softball eliminated from NCAA Tournament after trading late rallies with Illinois-Chicago

Missouri staged a three-run, seventh-inning rally on Saturday against Illinois-Chicago in an NCAA softball regional elimination game in Eugene, Ore.

But Tigers sophomore pitcher Madi Norman, a Louisville transfer, wasn’t able to protect the lead as the Flames mounted their own seventh-inning rally for a 5-4 victory.

Before that, Mizzou freshmen Cayla Kessinger and Braxton Burnside were poised to be the game’s heroes.

The Tigers trailed 3-1 and already had a run in courtesy of senior Natalie Fleming’s RBI single, which drove home freshman Gabby Garrison after she opened the inning with an infield single.

Down to potentially the season’s final out, Kessinger socked a game-tying RBI double to deep right-center and scored on Burnside’s roller up the middle.

Norman, who entered to start the fourth inning as the Tigers’ third pitcher of the game, had scattered two hits and a walk in three shutout innings, but she couldn’t douse the Flames and close out the win.

Two leadoff singles and a sacrifice bunt moved the winning run into scoring position.

UIC freshman Jennah Speth’s ground-out to second re-tied the game before freshman Kayla Wedl grounded a single off Burnside’s glove in the hole at shortstop for the winning run.

Mizzou, 29-28, was seeded second in the regional, but was relegated to the elimination round with Friday’s loss against Wisconsin.

It’s the first time the Tigers finished a regional 0-2 since 2004 and the first time the program failed to win a postseason game since failing to make the NCAA tourney in 2006.

The Flames, 39-21, jumped in front with a three-run second inning.

MU senior starting pitcher Cheyenne Baxter issued a pair of one-out walks sandwiched around a single before a wild pitch started the scoring.

Sophomore Danielle Baumgartner replaced Baxter and promptly reloaded the bases with another walk before sophomore Illinois-Chicago Lexi Watts slashed a two-run single.

Baumgartner worked around an illegal pitch and another walk later in the inning to avoid further damage.

The Tigers went to Norman, who steadied the ship.

Mizzou pulled a run back in the sixth inning on sophomore Kolby Romaine’s RBI single, setting the stage for the dramatic seventh.