Hatti Moore hat trick downs Texas A&M in extra-inning thriller
It was a wild Friday night at Mizzou Softball Stadium as the Texas A&M Aggies came to Columbia looking to improve their SEC record. The Missouri Tigers were expecting the exact same thing. With the two teams on an obvious collision course, it was the Tigers that came away with a 7-5 win in extra innings thanks to a spectacular performance from graduate senior catcher Hatti Moore, who hit three home runs and notched a special type of hat trick.
With the win, Missouri improved to 30-17 for the 2022 campaign, including a now neutral .500 record in the SEC at 9-9 after having been, at one point, 0-5. The rekindling of the offense has been instrumental in the Tiger turnaround.
“They trust the process. That's why our teams peak towards the end of the year; because they're constantly building and learning and growing so that we're carrying that momentum into postseason,” coach Larissa Anderson said. “The teams that peak in February and March crash at the end of the year.”
Jordan Weber earned the win for the Tigers. Weber struck out eight Aggies and limited superstar utility batter Haley Lee to an 0-3 performance while only getting on base via a walk in the third inning. Her win improved her season record to 12-5 and gave the Tigers a critical chunk of momentum moving into the middle stages of the series. Though Weber had some hardships between the fourth and sixth innings, she stayed resilient and stuck around for a complete-game win.
“I said, ‘Do you want to finish this game?’ She said ‘Yeah, I do.’ So, I'm gonna leave the kid in,” Anderson said. “I mean, when I can see it in their eyes that they want the ball and they want to be competitive? I will live and die with those players.”
Moore came up to the plate and took two balls to begin the bottom of the third inning. After that, though, she tattooed her name into the ball as she took Makinzy Herzog deep to dead center field to make it 1-0 on a solo home run. The next batter, Jenna Laird, joined in on the fun with a solo home run of her own to left-center to make it 2-0 and crack the game wide open for the Tigers.
The Aggies responded soon after with a solo home run of their own. With two outs in the top of the fourth, it was the five-hole-hitting left fielder Katie Dack who hit a solo home run to left field to make it 2-1, Mizzou. With the lead cut in half, however, Weber was able to limit the damage to just one run.
In the middle of the third inning, the Aggies took a call to the bullpen and brought in reliever Grace Uribe in place of Herzog. While Uribe escaped the third inning unharmed, the fourth didn’t go as smoothly. A leadoff double for Alex Honnold and a walk from Emma Raabe set up Moore in the nine-hole. Moore blasted a three-run home run that the left fielder hesitated to even turn around on to increase the Tiger lead to 5-1.
"Energy's big. We’re really fired up about everything,” Honnold said. “So I think that's just a big part right now. Dugout’s helping us out a lot.”
Weber began the sixth inning by forcing Lee, a focal point for the Tiger defense, into a groundout to move her daily log to 0-2 with a walk. Immediately after, however, she would give up a solo home run to right fielder Morgan Smith, who cut the Tiger lead to 5-2. After hitting a batter and walking another, Weber gave up a two-out, three-run home run to second baseman Rylen Wiggins, tying the game at five all. Weber closed the frame with a strikeout to increase her total to six on the night.
Weber kept pitching, though, and ended up throwing a complete game. She was able to maintain her composure even after her rough inning and battle until the end. It paid off for her team with a critical eighth inning rally.
“My mentality was ‘It's 5-5, so it's like a 0-0 ballgame. Just keeping myself calm,” Weber said. “Not trying to make the moment too big, really. That's all I was thinking of. 0-0 ballgame. Just keep doing what I've been doing.”
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Honnold began the inning with a line-drive single that popped in and out of the third baseman’s glove. Kara Daly drove Honnold to second base with a sacrifice bunt, which set up Riley Frizell. On a full-count pitch, Frizell drove a single through the gap in the right side of the infield, and Honnold received the sign from Anderson to round third and go home. That was until Honnold got out at home on a phenomenal throw from right field to save the game for A&M.
With two outs and a runner on first base, Moore strutted up to home plate with a chance to end the game. She did just that. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Moore crushed her third home run of the night to right-center field. This time, the centerfielder didn’t even look. Moore gave the Tigers a 7-5 win, driving in six of the seven runs herself.
“I would have been satisfied with a couple of singles or just one hit today. I've had a frustrating year. This meant a lot for me,” Moore said. “I think it meant a lot for me and for my teammates as well just to see me succeed. I know they always have my back and my coaches too.”
After earning a win in game one of the series, the Tigers aim to take a critical game two against A&M on Saturday at 4 p.m. The fireworks from Friday night will be washed away, and the two teams will do battle once again at Mizzou Softball Stadium to try to improve their respective standings for the impending SEC Tournament.