May 30, 2010

By Jim Rodenbush
Special to NCAA.com

COLUMBIA, Mo.-For the first time in its 35-year history, the Missouri softball team is making back-to-back trips to the Women's College World Series.

Kristin Nottelmann allowed one earned run in seven innings to continue her perfect NCAA tournament run. Lisa Simmons and Nicole Hudson, meanwhile, each homered to lead No. 8 Missouri to a 7-2 victory over No. 22 Oregon and a two-game sweep of a NCAA Division I Super Regional on Sunday at Missouri's University Field.

Ashley Fleming added three hits and two RBIs and reached base four times as the Tigers (51-11) set a school record for victories in a season. Oregon finished its season at 36-21.

With the win, Missouri clinched a return trip to the Women's College World Series in front on their home crowd. The Tigers will make their fifth overall appearance in the event, scheduled to start Thursday in Oklahoma City.

"It was awesome to have the fan support," Nottelmann said. "Just hearing the roar of the crowd on the last out and hearing everyone go crazy, it was great. Just being able to be home and celebrate with our fans was a great feeling."

Nottelmann (24-7) settled down following a rocky first inning and improved to 5-0 in the postseason. The sophomore right-hander won all three games for the Tigers in the Columbia Regional and both games of the Super Regional against unseeded Oregon.

On Sunday, she allowed eight hits, no walks and struck out four.

"I give her credit for taking us down," Oregon left fielder Allie Burger said.

The Tigers, who had scored four runs or fewer in their first four NCAA tournament games, collected 10 hits off of Oregon starter Jessica Moore (16-13) and three relievers.

"We had a fantastic day," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said. "We swung the bats a lot better and gave Kristin a little bit of a cushion. Offensively, we carried some big bats today and got some big hits."

Simmons hit the second home run of her career to lead off the fourth inning. Her lined shot over the left-field wall chased Moore and gave Missouri a 3-1 lead.

After Oregon pulled within a run, Hudson hit her team-best 10th home run of the season, a solo shot off reliever Sam Skillingstad with two outs in the sixth.

"I felt like we needed something big that inning," Hudson said. "I kind of felt them getting some momentum. I just wanted to get something going. We've had all these runs building up. It's fun to finally pout them on the board."

Moore, who allowed only an unearned run in a 1-0 loss to Missouri on Saturday, struggled on Sunday. The freshman right-hander gave up three runs and five hits in three innings and struck out one.

"She was getting behind in the count, and then having to come into the zone," Oregon coach Mike White said. "She made some pitches right over the middle of the plate. They're too good of a hitting team to throw them right over the middle."

Missouri, which was the visiting team Sunday, jumped on Moore for a pair of runs in the top of the first inning.

With one out, Hudson opened the rally when she ripped a single off the wall in left field. Jenna Marston followed with a ground ball to shortstop Kelsey Chambers, who tried to force Hudson but was late with her throw to second baseman Kaylan Howard.

Fleming followed with a single which scored Hudson. A wild pitch from Moore brought home Marston and made it 2-0.

Oregon got a run back in its half of the first. Burger and Neena Bryant led off with back-to-back singles, and Sam Pappas grounded into a force out at second base.

Howard then lined out to second baseman Gina Schneider, who attempted to double-off Pappas at first base. But her throw was wild to first baseman Catherine Lee, allowing Burger to score.

"What we failed to do was capitalize on the next couple of innings after that," White said. "We didn't put the pressure on the pitcher. We had too many easy outs."

Oregon made it 3-2 in the fifth inning. Carlyn Re led off with a double. Pinch-runner Shelley Deadmond moved to third base on a sacrifice and scored on a sacrifice fly from Burger.

Up 4-2 following Hudson's home run, the Tigers added three more runs in the sixth inning.

"It came down to execution," White said. "Missouri definitely made the most of their chances and capitalize on our mistakes, which is what a good team do. It's a tough way to lose."