Missouri Tigers win NCAA softball regional opener over in-state rival Bears

·4 min read
Colin E. Braley/AP

Larissa Anderson didn’t turn to her typical No. 1 starter, Jordan Weber, in the circle for the opening round of the Columbia Regional. She went with Laurin Krings.

The way that both Krings and Weber have thrown the ball throughout the last two postseasons took the pressure off the Missouri softball coach. And the choice to start Krings paid dividends.

She fired a complete game on 112 pitches as No. 15 seed Missouri (37-20) took the opening round matchup against Missouri St. 3-1. Now, the Tigers will have Jordan Weber fresh and available for the Tigers’ second-game match, against Arizona at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Arizona beat Illinois 8-3 on Friday evening.

“Watching Missouri St. and their swings I (knew) that because she has such a dynamic changeup, and she has such a big speed differential between her hard stuff and her changeup, I knew it was a good matchup,” Anderson said.

In the last two Columbia regionals dating back to last year, Krings and Weber have tossed 27 innings, allowing just one run. Krings ran into trouble in the third, loading the bases for the Missouri State (27-19) cleanup hitter, Alex Boze.

Boze entered Friday’s matchup batting .345 with a team-leading 11 home runs and 31 RBI. Like Krings often did with two strikes, she went to her 56 mph changeup that caught Boze way out in front.

“I just completely trust that pitch,” Krings said.“ If I have it that day, it will be there.”

Most of Missouri’s offense came from the top of its lineup. After hitting five home runs in regional and super Regional play last year, centerfielder Brooke Wilmes continued her clutch postseason hitting with two doubles and an insurance RBI single in the bottom of the sixth on Friday against Missouri State.

“It’s nothing new,” Wilmes said. “Just because we’re in the postseason and we’re one of 64 teams, that my approach needs to change.”

Wilmes helped start a rally with a double in the first inning and designated player Kimberly Wert ripped a single, but Kendyll Bailey popped out to the second baseman and Alex Honnold flew out to right field, stranding two runners. The Tigers left nine runners on the base paths throughout the afternoon.

“We just have to look for better pitches in those situations and not press,” Anderson said. “We put the bat on the ball, but we weren’t hitting it hard. We have to evaluate, was the pitcher getting us out or were we getting ourselves out? We just tried a little too hard in those situations which is why we were jamming ourselves rather than swinging free and trusting ourselves.”

Two innings later, Bailey came up again with both Wilmes and Wert on the corners. This time, she drove in a run with a groundout, and Honnold reached on an error by the first baseman bringing in another.

MU didn’t score again until the bottom of the sixth inning, but Krings weaved in and out of trouble, striking out 12 Missouri State. batters and allowing just one run, an RBI single in the top of the sixth. Krings likely won’t be used on Saturday, but Anderson didn’t rule anything out.

“If you were to ask Laurin, she would want to throw every single game,” Anderson said. “The great thing is that she does have the ability to do so. Hopefully we don’t have to use her tomorrow, but I know that she’s always available.”

The first game of Missouri’s regional was by no means a waltz. At times, Anderson said she had to take a deep breath. But now that they got the first game under their belt, there’s a new feeling in the clubhouse.

“You can see it. You can feel it. You can feel the sigh of relief,” Anderson said. “You get a top-16 seed which they earned, you’re playing in front of an amazing crowd, you want to do well for everybody. No one is putting more pressure on themselves than we are.”

Columbia Regional schedule

Double elimination

Friday’s games

Missouri 3, Missouri State 1

Arizona 8, Illinois 3

Saturday’s games

Missouri vs. Arizona, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Missouri State vs. Illinois, about 4 p.m. (ESPN+)

Missouri-Arizona loser vs. Missouri State-Illinois winner, about 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Sunday’s games

Winner of Saturday’s first game vs. winner of Saturday’s last game, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)

Second elimination game, if needed, about 5:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

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