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March 12, 2011

Tigers scored on, but win twice

Catherine Lee loves inside pitches.

The only problem was that Illinois pitcher Pepper Gay wasn't giving her any Saturday at University Field.

In her second at-bat, Lee was ready to make a change.

"She was busting me outside all day, so I stood up on the plate and I figured she was going to come in," Lee said.

She guessed right.

The senior first baseman blasted a home run over the left field fence that tied the game at 2-2. Missouri went on to win the game 4-3 and swept its doubleheader with the Illini and Illinois State in the DeMarini Invitational thanks to some power hitting.

The Tigers hit four home runs on the day, including shots by Maddison Ruggeberg and Lee that coach Ehren Earleywine estimated at close to 300 feet.

Missouri (14-3) pushed its win streak to 11 games and has won 13 of its last 14.

Chelsea Thomas got the start in game one against Illinois State and was impressive once again. Thomas (5-2) went all five innings, giving up four hits and no runs while striking out eight.

The Tigers scored a pair of runs in the first inning before Megan Christopher flashed Missouri's offensive muscle with a homer in the second inning. The catcher's blast hit high off the scoreboard, knocking into the Coca Cola sign to the left of the video screen.

Missouri held its 3-0 lead into the fifth inning. After Jenna Marston's infield single led to another run, Lee hit a 3-run round tripper to make it 7-0.

After Nicole Hudson laced a double to right-center field, Ruggeberg put an end to the game in a big way. The third baseman crushed a home run that cleared a plastic fence about 20 feet behind the 190-foot mark on the outfield fence and landed in a patch of weeds down a hill.

"I was looking for a good pitch and I knew that the first pitch had been good most of the day, so I just got really aggressive and went for it," Ruggeberg said.

The shot gave Missouri a walk-off 9-0 win.

Runs were harder to come by against Illinois in the second game. Gay set Missouri down nearly in order through the first three innings, striking out six Tigers.

"Any coach will tell you…it's very hard to get your team motivated after an enormous woodshop beating like we gave them in the first game," Earleywine said. "It's tough because they feel so good about themselves and sometimes they forget to reengage.

"Their pitcher did a good job hitting her spots, but there was no way we should have had the amount of K's that we had off a pitcher like that."

Meanwhile, Kristin Nottelmann struggled with her control. After a walk to the leadoff batter in the third, a bunt for a base hit and a strikeout in the dirt allowed the runners to advance second and third. Nottelmann then went to a full count on Meredith Hackett before allowing a two-run single up the middle.

The runs were the first Missouri had given up in 43 innings, but it didn't take the Tigers long to answer.

In the Missouri's next at-bat, Ashley Fleming walked, setting Lee up for her mammoth shot. After taking the first two pitches for balls, Gay had to come in with a strike and Lee made her pay.

The homer took nearly the same route as Ruggeberg's walk-off shot, again landing in the brush out of sight.

A Marston double scored two more the next inning. Hackett struck again in the sixth, this time with a solo home run to make it a 4-3 game.

Thomas closed things out in the seventh inning for her first career save. Nottelmann picked up the win to improve to 7-0 on the year.

Missouri takes on Illinois State and Illinois once again on Sunday, with the Tigers set to play the Redbirds at noon.

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