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May 27, 2012
"We're going into (tomorrow) with the mindset that we're playing 14 innings."
That's what right fielder Ashley Fleming said after the game and it's the mindset that the Missouri Tigers (46-13) will have to have after falling to the LSU Tigers (38-22) on Saturday evening by a score of 6-1 in the opening game of NCAA Super Regionals for both teams.
Most expected the game to be a pitcher's duel between Chelsea Thomas and LSU's ace Rachele Fico. Fico held up her end of the bargain, giving up one run while pitching all seven innings for LSU. Thomas, on the other hand, struggled on a night where she pitched just 4.1 innings and gave up five runs against a team that had only scored more than two twice since April 5th. It appeared that Thomas never really had control of the strike zone, albeit one that was described by LSU head coach Beth Torina as "difficult" hinting at the inconsistency of home plate umpire Paul Smokey. The usually steady pitcher walked six and hit two batters on the day.
"I can't think back on a worse game from me. Just an off day," Thomas said.
On a night where the temperature reached 91 degrees, and the humidity made it feel closer to 110, Mizzou coach Ehren Earleywine believes that the heat played a factor in Thomas' shaky performance.
"I think she overheated. This is the hottest game we've played all year. You could tell in the 2nd and 3rd inning, her face started to turn red."
The temperature when the first pitch is scheduled on Sunday is projected to be 90 degrees. If Mizzou is going to advance, it's apparent that Chelsea Thomas will have to handle the heat a lot better.
In defense of Thomas, she didn't get much help. While the box score will show just one error for the Tigers --- the Missouri Tigers that is --- there were plenty of mistakes made by Mizzou's fielders that cost the team, including two dropped pitches by Jenna Marston that allowed runners to advance and a bloop single that fell through despite being chased by second baseman Ashtin Stephens and centerfielder Mackenzie Sykes. That ball fell through and scored two runs.
The Tigers offense didn't help Thomas out much either, scoring just one run despite getting eight hits. Mizzou left 10 baserunners stranded over the course of the game and was unable to come up with any timely hits.
Adding injury to insult was the fact that starting first baseman Kelsea Roth may be unavailable to play tomorrow after she fouled a ball off her face on a play that left the crowd silenced for a few minutes as she laid on the ground in pain.
While she wouldn't officially commit to anything, Torina hinted that Brittany Mack would start tomorrow's Game 2 for LSU. While Mack is viewed as the lesser pitcher of LSU's two-headed pitching attack, she's proven that she come up big in big situations, including last Sunday when she allowed just one run in seven innings in the decisive game against Texas A&M.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 PM tomorrow and should Mizzou win, the teams will play a decisive Game 3 immediately afterwards.
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