May 21, 2010

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- After trailing 2-0 through the first five innings, the Mizzou softball team rallied to post three runs - two of which came on a walk-off double from Catherine Lee in the game's final at bat - in the final two innings of play as it rallied to defeat Creighton, 3-2, on Friday (May 21) at University Field. Lee was 0-3 heading into the game's final at bat but drilled a double off of the centerfield wall to knock in Rhea Taylor and Lisa Simmons. Missouri hurler Kristin Nottlemann earned the win for Mizzou as he kept the Bluejays off the scoreboard in the final three innings of the game while striking out four.

"The brightest spot of the night to me was Kristin Nottelmann. I thought she had great velocity, spin, their hitters looked overpower by Kristin," said Tiger head coach Ehren Earleywine.

The walk-off double erased a great effort from Creighton All-American starter Tara Oltman who threw 134 pitches - 73 for strikes - as she shut down the Tigers for five innings before they finally broke onto the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Oltman pitched six innings while scattering seven hits and allowing three earned runs, two of which came on her 134th pitch of the evening off the bat of Lee. The loss for Oltman marked only the second time in the last four years that the Bluejays have lost when leading after six innings. They had been 108-1 in that span.

Creighton went on top in the first inning thanks to a pair of balls that didn't venture more than five feet from home plate. First, Creighton first baseman Renae Sinkler sent a swinging bunt down the third base line and beat out the throw from Tiger catcher Megan Christopher. Next up, designated player Amy Baker ripped a double to right center, advancing Sinkler to third. Hitting in the clean-up spot, Michelle Garner laid down a bunt that landed just beyond home plate for a suicide squeeze and despite another fine effort from Christopher, Sinkler slid just beyond the attempted tag to score the first run of the game.

Mizzou threatened in its half of the first inning as Rhea Taylor lead off with a double to left center, but Oltman came back and retired the next two hitters. After a two-out walk to Tiger right fielder Ashley Fleming, Nicole Hudson came up with a chance to bring the Tigers even, but was thrown out on a close play at first base, leaving two runners on in the opening frame.

Tiger starter Jana Hainey seemed to settle in after the first inning and at one point struck out four-straight batters. After the first run scored, Hainey retired seven of eight batters to keep the Tigers within striking distance through the first three innings. But during that span, Oltman was better, allowing just a single hit through the first three innings.

Creighton began a rally in the top of the fourth inning as the first two pitches of the frame from Hainey resulted in singles. A sacrifice bunt from short stop Liz McKewon advanced the runners to second and third with only one out, bringing in Christa Ruf who brought in a run with a sacrifice fly to deep center field, giving Creighton a 2-0 lead. But despite giving up two singles to open the inning, Hainey rallied to strike out Jessi Jadlowski to come away with minimal damage.

In the bottom of the fourth, Oltman continued to baffle Tiger hitters as she went through the first four frames allowing only two hits and walked just two batters while striking out four. But Mizzou threatened in the bottom of the fifth as the first two runners reached base, setting up a sacrifice bunt situation for Abby Vock, who pinch hit for Gina Schneider. But Vock lined the bunt to Creighton third baseman Michelle Graner who doubled off pinch hitter Kathryn Poet at first base. Creighton then walked Taylor intentionally to get to Lee, who lined out hard to third to end the threat.

Mizzou got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth inning thanks to an RBI single by Hudson that knocked in Jenna Marston, who had singled earlier in the inning. Shana White pinch ran for Marston and stole second base, giving Mizzou runners on second and third with no out, but Oltman retired the next three batters to leave the runners stranded in scoring position.

That set the stage for the seventh-inning heroics as Oltman failed to retire a single Tiger batter in the frame. Also, a passed ball with runners on first and second led to Mizzou having two runners in scoring position, and both scored on Lee's double to end the game.

The Columbia Regional will resume at University Field at noon tomorrow (May 22). Missouri will take on Illinois, who won the first game 4-2, at Noon. Creighton and DePaul will face off in an elimination game at 2:30, with the loser of the Missouri/Illinois game and the winner of the Creighton/DePaul game playing in another elimination game at 5.