No. 9 Tigers Play Host to No. 14 Sooners

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MUTIGERS.COM

April 15, 2011

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LEADING OFF
-No. 14/9 Missouri hosts No. 15/14 Oklahoma in a huge home series starting this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT. The series concludes on Sunday at 3 p.m.  Both games will be televised, with Saturday's game airing on Fox Sports Net and Sunday's contest being broadcast on ESPN.

-Sunday is Gold Rush.  Fans are encourage to arrive early and wear gold for the series finale.  The first 100 fans will receive a free gold rally towel.  There will also be a Sign Contest for fans in the stands, with the winner receiving a $50 gift card to the Tiger Team Store.  Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel will throw out the first pitch prior to Sunday's start.

-Last weekend's victories over the Aggies improves Missouri's home winning streak to 30 straight, the longest streak in Division I softball. Mizzou is 15-0 at home this year and won their last 15 home games last season.

-The Tigers made easy work of Northern Iowa on Wednesday, beating the Panthers by a 7-2 final.  The Tigers belted out 13 hits, including two three-run home runs coming off the bats of Nicole Hudson and Catherine LeeChelsea Thomas picked up the win, allowing one earned run while striking out 10 in just four innings of work.  Kristin Nottelmann recorded her third save of the year with three flawless innings, tying her with Thomas and two others for most saves in the Big 12.

-Lee's home run gave her six on the year, tying her total from last season.  She's also driven in 26 RBI after plating 28 all of last year.  Hudson's homer tied her for the team lead with nine.  Last season, Hudson led all Tigers with 10 homers on the year.  In just a year and a half she is already in the top-10 for most home runs in a career at Missouri.

-Thomas entered the week tied for the best earned run average in all of Division I softball at 0.67, as she's even with Florida's Stephanie Brombacher. Brombacher has missed the last several weeks due to injury and has just 15 appearances this season compared to Thomas' 24.

-With her 10 strikeouts on Wednesday, Thomas now has 207 on the season, the eighth most in a season in school history.

-This year's team has already jumped into the top-10 in two stat categories.  With 46 home runs on the season, the 2011 squad is sixth all-time in program history.  Last year's team hit 62, the third most in a single season.  They've also drawn the 10th-most walks in a year at Mizzou with 142 so far this season.  The 2010 squad set a new school record with 247 walks.

-Timely hitting was a big factor in Mizzou's sweep over the Aggies last weekend. Of their nine runs scored, six came with two outs. The team hit .474 with two outs against Texas A&M, and is hitting .331 with two outs this season.

-After starting the year in an 0-for-20 slump at the plate, Lisa Simmons has emerged as of late and has been one of the best bats in the lineup for the Tigers. Since that start, Simmons is 12-for-30, good enough for a .400 batting average over that span. She's scored nine runs for the team and a career-best 12 RBI, while also providing spectacular defense in the outfield.

-The Tigers have 14 shutouts on the year, 12 of which came the month of March. They are walking just 1.40 batters per seven innings, the best in the conference. The staff's .175 opponent batting average is second amongst Big 12 teams. The team is second in the league in strikeouts per seven innings, as they average 9.01, and is third in the conference with a 1.37 earned run average. The team's 1.16 ERA during conference play is the best in the league.

-Freshman Maddison Ruggeberg has surprised a lot of people this year, emerging as one of the best hitters on the team in her first year of action. After a strong weekend against Texas A&M, Ruggeberg is second on the team with a .390 batting average. She's slugging .598 this season, tied for second on the squad, and has four home runs to go with 18 runs batted in. She's emerged as a big-time hitter during Big 12 play, as she's hitting .458 in conference games.

-Ashley Fleming continued her great 2011 campaign with her ninth home run of the year last Wednesday in game one at Evansville. The junior also had nine home runs last season and now has 22 for her career - ninth most in school history. Six of her home runs this year have come in the last 12 games. She leads the team with 11 doubles, 38 RBI and an.784 slugging percentage.

SCOUTING OKLAHOMA
Ranked No. 15 in the NFCA/USA Today Division I polls and No. 14 by USA Softball and ESPN.com, the Oklahoma Sooners come into the weekend with a 33-11 record and are 6-3 in conference play.  They are 5-1 in their last six games, all of which were Big 12 contests.  On Wednesday they knocked off Oklahoma State by a 5-1 score and split last weekend against Baylor.

Oklahoma is hitting .313 as a team, fifth-highest in the Big 12, and are hitting .300 in conference games.  Powering the offense is Jessica Schults, who  is hitting .333 with 19 home runs and 56 RBI.  Seven Sooner starters are hitting over .300.

Keilani Ricketts is the Sooner ace, as she sports a 20-7 record with a 1.43 earned run average in 33 appearances.  She's thrown 22 complete games in 25 starts and has seven shutouts.  She has struck out 290 batters and walked 47 in 175.2 innings while allowing 115 hits for a .178 opponent batting average.

Missouri is 36-43 all-time against Oklahoma.  Last year, the Tigers took the first game 11-5, scoring eight runs in the sixth inning to help overcome an early 5-0 deficit.  The Sooners took game two by a 9-0 final in six innings, and repeated that score in the Big 12 Championship game in May.

FOLLOW LIVE
Saturday's game will air live on Fox Sports Net.  Check your local listings for availability.  Sunday's game will start at 3 p.m. and air live on ESPN.  We'll also have live broadcasts for Mizzou All-Access subscribers at mutigers.tv.  Updates will be provided at Twitter.com/MIZLive, and as always, GameTracker will be available.  Links are at the softball schedule page at mutigers.com

WHAT'S NEXT?
Missouri travels a few hours down I-70 on Wednesday for a doubleheader against the Saint Louis Billikens.  Action starts at 3 p.m. CT.

FOLLOW MIZZOU SOFTBALL ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK
Tiger softball fans can follow along with the season through many of the program's social media options. On Twitter, Mizzou fans can follow the entire athletic department at twitter.com/mutigersdotcom. Assistant Coach Pete D'Amour is also on Twitter at twitter.com/MizzouSBcoach. On Facebook, fans can search "University of Missouri Softball Team" to track down the team's official page.

MIZZOU'S HOME WINNING STREAK LONGEST IN NATION
With Georgia's loss to Tennessee on April 6, coupled with Mizzou's home sweep over Texas A&M last weekend, the Missouri Tigers now own the longest winning streak in all of Division I College softball with 30 straight wins on their home turf. Here's a look at the longest home streaks in the country.

1.    Missouri - 30
2.    Arizona State - 25
3.    Hofstra - 19
4.    Tulsa - 18
T5.    Alabama - 17
T5.    Texas A&M - 17

Playing at University Field has been a major advantage for the Tigers since head coach Ehren Earleywine took over in 2007. In 119 games played at home under Earleywine, the Tigers have won 102 of them for an .857 winning percentage on their home field. Of their 17 losses, 13 of them came in two combined seasons. In Earleywine's first year the Tigers went 17-7 at home, and in 2009 they went 17-6. In 2008, Mizzou finished 22-1 at home while last year they went 31-3. So far this year the Tigers are 15-0.

MIZZOU TOPPLES UNI, 7-2
Backed by 13 hits from the offense and 14 strikeouts from the pitching staff, the No. 9 Missouri Tigers coasted to a 7-2 win over the Northern Iowa Panthers on Wednesday to improve to 33-5 on the season.

Redshirt sophomore Chelsea Thomas pushed her record to 18-3 with four innings of work.  The righty struck out 10 while walking zero, as she allowed two runs - one earned - on three hits.

Nicole Hudson and Catherine Lee each powered the offense with a three run home run.  Kristin Nottelmann worked three innings, allowing one hit and striking out four for her third save of the year.

THOMAS NAMED FINALIST FOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tiger redshirt sophomore Chelsea Thomas has been selected as one of 25 finalists for the 2011 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, as announced Wednesday afternoon by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America.  

The award, which is considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women's collegiate softball, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country. The current 25-person list will be cut down to a list of 10 finalists on March 11, with the three finalists being named on May 25.  The winner of the award will be announced on May 31st, prior to the start of the 2011 Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

THOMAS WINS THIRD BIG 12 HONOR OF SEASON
For the third time this season and fifth time in her career, redshirt sophomore Chelsea Thomas has been selected as the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week, as announced Tuesday by the league office. Thomas shares this week's honor with Texas sophomore Blaire Luna. The Pleasantville, Iowa, native earned this award on March 8 and March 29 of this year.

Going 3-0 on the week, Thomas opened up play on Wednesday with a victory over Evansville in the second game of a doubleheader. The Tiger righty threw four of the five innings in Missouri's 9-1 run-rule victory, striking out six while allowing just one hit and zero walks. She picked up two wins over then-No. 20 Texas A&M this past weekend, throwing two complete games against the Aggies. On Saturday, Thomas scattered five hits, walked four and struck out eight while giving up three earned runs. She followed that up with a shutout on Sunday, tossing seven innings, giving up four hits and striking out nine.

POWER SURGE
With 46 home runs through 38 games, the Tigers have shown a major increase in power compared to last season. In 2010, the Tigers had just 30 home runs and 199 RBI through the first 38 games. Ashley Fleming, Nicole Hudson and Marla Schweisberger led the team with five home runs each at that point and 10 Tigers in all had home runs. This year, 14 Tigers have hit long balls and they've driven in 214 as a team. Two Tigers lead the way with nine homers. Fleming, who matches her total from last year, and Hudson, who led the team with 10 last season. The squad is slugging .069 points higher at this point with a .517 slugging percentage compared to .448 last year through 38 games. Missouri finished with 62 home runs in 64 games last season. They are on pace to hit 64 home runs in 53 regular season games this year.

CAN'T K FLEMING
Junior Ashley Fleming has been one of the Tigers top hitters this year, and much of that is because she is so tough to strike out. This season, Fleming has struck out just eight times in 105 at bats while drawing 16 walks. From March 13 to April 2, she went 42 straight at bats without a strikeout, and has struck out only three times in her last 85 at bats.


 

 

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