In almost a mirror image of Saturday’s game between these two NCAA softball teams, Missouri saw its season come to a frustrating end with a 1-0 loss to Arizona on the final day of the national tournament’s Columbia Regional.
For the second straight game, Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Weber played with fire for the first four innings yet managed to strand seven Arizona baserunners.
But Arizona catcher Shalize Palacios took Weber deep to left field in the fifth, breaking a scoreless tie and giving Arizona (36-20) the only run it would need against Mizzou (38-22).
Wildcats coach Caitlin Lowe turned to sophomore pitcher Devyn Netz for Sunday’s start, her first of the Columbia Regional. She had allowed 14 runs in her previous three starts. On Sunday, Netz threw a two-hit shutout, allowing just one Tiger to reach second base.
“From past experience with Devyn, she’s going to go at people and give you everything that she has,” Lowe said. “(Hanah Bowen) is always available, but when Devyn has that fire in her eyes and she wants the ball, I felt great about it today.”
“It’s kind of surreal,” Netz said. “It’s kind of something you dream of as a little kid.”
After watching her squad score just 12 runs in seven games since the start of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, MU coach Larissa Anderson shifted Kara Daly from the six-hole to the cleanup spot and catcher Hatti Moore from No. 8 in the order to No. 6. Casidy Chaumont dropped down to bat seventh.
The Tigers made contact on Sunday, but Netz kept their retooled lineup at bay. She struck out three and made just one notable mistake, hanging a pitch over the plate to designated player Kimberly Wert in the bottom of the fourth. Missouri’s leading home run hitter drove it to the center-field warning track, but Arizona’s Janelle Meono was able to haul it in.
“We were pressing a little bit,” Wert said. “We’re an older lineup. We knew that this could have been our last game. That’s always in the back of your mind. We started to have better at-bats as the game went on, but at that point it was kind of too late.”
Wert, who said she’d played with pain in her knees all season, went 2 for 12 with no home runs during the regional. Mizzou, the No. 15 national seed, scored just five runs in four games.
“I wouldn’t let them take me to the doctor until I was done,” Wert said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to know what’s going on because if I know, then like … I don’t know.’ We’ll find out here in a little bit. I’ve been better.”
The Tigers were one of three seeded schools eliminated on Sunday. No. 2 Florida St. and No. 6 Alabama both lost at home in the seventh game of their respective regionals.
Missouri’s roster will see plenty of turnover now. All-SEC first-team centerfielder Brooke Wilmes, Wert, the program’s all-time home run leader, and Moore each used their extra year of eligibility this season. Six players in Missouri’s lineup are seniors, and none is likely to return.
“They were so committed and loyal and dedicated to this program,” Anderson said. “They really set the standard, set a very, very high bar and left a lasting legacy and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
A Tigers pitching staff that recently became a team strength should return intact. And sophomore Laurin Krings and Weber, a junior out of Lee’s Summit West, have more postseason experience under their belts now.
“The future is exciting because of our senior class,” Anderson said. “The work ethic that they instilled within this program ... the next year’s class is going to want to come back and make those seniors proud. That’s the legacy that we want to continue to instill in our players as they come through.”