May 29, 2010

By Jim Rodenbush
Special to

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Oregon had chance after chance against Missouri and its starter Kristin Nottelmann. The Ducks twice loaded the bases and put a runner on base in five of seven innings against the sophomore pitcher.

But what the Ducks could not muster was a single big hit, and that cost them Saturday afternoon.

Nottelmann scattered six hits in seven innings to lead No. 8 Missouri to a 1-0 victory over No. 22 Oregon in the first game of a best-of-three NCAA Division I softball Super Regional at Missouri's University Field.

Lisa Simmons scored off a throwing error in the bottom of the fifth inning for the only run of the game, as Missouri (50-11) moved one win away from advancing to the Women's College World Series for the second consecutive season.

"It wasn't what you would call a pretty win, but it was a win," Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine said.

Freshman Jessica Moore allowed four hits and one unearned run in a six-inning, complete-game effort for Oregon (36-20). The Ducks will need to win twice on Sunday to make their first Women's College World Series appearance since 1989.

The second game of the Super Regional will be played at noon Sunday. Game 3, if necessary, will be played immediately after.

"Having that first game out of the way doesn't put as much pressure on us," Nottelmann said. "I feel like we can go out there more relaxed and play our game. I feel like we're going to have a better game (Sunday)."

Nottelmann walked two and struck out three in improving to 23-7 on the season and 4-0 in the NCAA tournament. She stranded eight Oregon base runners.

"They're a good hitting team, so they're going to get hits, they're going to get on base," she said. "You just have to go to that next level and really bear down and make sure they don't get that run across. It just worked out today and that didn't happen."

Missouri, the No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament, was making its third consecutive appearance in the Super Regional round, but was hosting for the first time Saturday. The occasion attracted a school record crowd of 1,765.

The Tigers had difficulty breaking through against unseeded Oregon and their starter Moore, who struck out five and walked no one in dropping to 16-12 this season.

"I feel like I threw well today," Moore said. "Today went well. I got some strikeouts. Our defense did a great job with one mess up."

The Tigers' break came in the fifth inning, with two outs and nobody on base.

Simmons started the rally with a base hit and moved to second base on a wild pitch from Moore. Gina Schneider, who entered the game batting .125 in the postseason (1-for-8), then followed with an infield single. On the play, Oregon third baseman Monique Fuiava threw wild past first base, allowing Simmons to score.

"With two strikes, coach always tell us to put it in play the best we can," Schneider said. "I got it in play, and I just ran as fast as I could to just try and beat it out. When I saw the first baseman headed toward me, I knew it was going to be a bad throw. ... I'm glad I got the run in."

Oregon coach Mike White said indecisiveness cost Fuiava.

"She didn't have a grip of the ball, and she kind of wanted to hold up and got stuck in-between," he said. "I told her about (that). Just be aggressive. If you're going to throw it, throw it. It's unfortunate it happened to be the game-winner for them."

Oregon wasted a pair of bases-loaded opportunities against Nottelmann.

In the fifth inning, Kaitlin Vitek led off with a single and Ashley Kivett followed with a double. Allie Burger popped out to short left field for the first out of the inning, and Neena Bryant struck out. After Sam Pappas was walked intentionally, Kelsey Chambers bounced into a force out at second base to end the inning.

In the second, Chambers led off with a single and was sacrificed to second base. With one out, Kaylan Howard reached on an error by shortstop Jenna Marston and Carlyn Re followed with an infield single. But Vitek lined out to third base and Kivett bounced into a force play at second to end the inning.

"Nottelmann, the pitcher, came through in the clutch when she had to, got some big outs," White said. "We had runners in scoring position several times, we just couldn't get the big hit."