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May 25, 2012
It's certainly not going to be a matchup of contrasting styles this weekend when the Missouri Tigers (46-12) and LSU Tigers (37-22) go at it in the Columbia Super Regional. Both teams are going to rely heavily on pitching to win this weekend, albeit with a different approach. While Mizzou will rely on their workhorse Chelsea Thomas to carry the bulk of the pitching load, LSU will go with a two-headed attack featuring Rachele Fico and Brittany Mack.
As astounding as Thomas has been this season with an earned run average just north of 1, Fico has perhaps been even more impressive with 0.92 ERA. Her counterpart Mack has also been strong this season, including allowing just one run and three hits in the decisive game against Texas A&M this past Sunday. However, as well as they've pitched, there's a reason that LSU is coming into this weekend as underdogs.
"If we push three (or more) runs against the board in some way, shape, or form, we're going to win" said Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine earlier this week.
br> LSU has scored more than two runs just twice since April 5th. In fact, LSU doesn't have a single starter hitting over .270.
That's not to say Mizzou has been an offensive juggernaut this year. While the Tigers' offense has had strong performances, inconsistency has bothered Earleywine.
"We've had spurts," the coach said. "The spurts are what bother me the most, because I know they're capable. You're trying to figure out the disconnect."
Case-in-point: Mizzou put up six runs last Friday versus Illinois State, scored just one run against DePaul in nine innings on Saturday, and then struggled to score two runs against the same Illinois State team on Sunday.
The only real consistent threat for Missouri this entire season has been Ashley Fleming, who has a batting average over .370 and leads the team with 16 home-runs, which is three more than the entire LSU team. The key for Mizzou is whether anybody else will step up.
Last weekend, Kelsea Roth hit a home run and Kayla Kingsley went 6-for-9 in supplementing Fleming, but it's been a revolving door all season. Coach Earleywine said that he hopes "it's more than just two or three (players). If you get four or five going, then you win. If you get two or three going, you might win, but you also might lose."
If Mizzou wins this weekend, the Tigers will advance to their fourth straight Women's College World Series. Even if they fall to LSU, this will be one of the more impressive runs in Missouri Tiger history.
Game one between the Tigers and the Tigers starts at 6:30 on Saturday evening.
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