Nathalie Jones, 23 Sports

Sunday, February 12—

The first games of the regular season were finally here for the No. 17 Missouri Tigers’ softball team, and they needed to start off with a bang against the No. 14 James Madison Dukes and the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. However, the game against the Dukes did not go as planned as Missouri was shut out in a 6-0 Dukes victory. The day did not end there, however, as the Tigers played comeback kids, making a statement in a 4-3 win against the Buccaneers.

Game one against James Madison appeared to be a stalemate for the first two innings. Both pitchers were holding steady, only allowing weak contact. However, the Dukes didn’t take too long to start hitting, as they broke the deadlock in the third inning off a couple of base hits.

Once the standoff was broken, there was no going back, as the Dukes did not let up on the bat, nor did they let off their defensive onslaught. With players such as the NFCA First Time All-American pitcher Megan Good and power hitting senior Taylor Newton, James Madison seemed to be an unstoppable force. Good was able to keep Missouri’s bats quiet through the opening half of the game. On the off times she did allow runners to get on base, the Tigers failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities.

A paradigm of Mizzou’s failed scoring opportunities came when freshman Gabby Garrison cracked a base hit, then stole a base in the fifth inning. It was a perfect scoring opportunity; however, the Tigers could not muster a hit.

Although being shut out wasn’t a great way to open the season, Missouri was not done yet. Only a few hours after the shutout, the Tigers geared up to take on the hosts of the tournament, Charleston Southern.

The first run of the doubleheader came from freshman Braxton Burnside off a first inning RBI double. However, the Buccaneers were quick to respond to the hot bat from Mizzou as they blasted a home run into left field. But the Tigers were not going to allow a repeat of the James Madison game. The all-star of Missouri’s comeback came in freshman pitcher Parker Conrad. She pitched two consecutive scoreless frames with three strikeouts. With the defense holding off Charleston Southern, the Tigers were able to gain momentum and gain a slight advantage.

The ballgame, overall, was very back and forth. Missouri would get a base hit and Charleston Southern would slam a ball away right after. The Tigers were down 3-2 in the fifth inning when, after a leadoff double from senior Kirsten Mack, redshirt freshman Jolie Duffner tallied her first RBI with a sacrifice fly.

The pitching once again came to the rescue when Conrad’s relief, redshirt sophomore Madi Norman, came into the circle in the fourth inning. She shut out the Buccaneers in the remaining innings. With the defense performing, Missouri was poised and ready to hit this game home. Mack did just that in the seventh when she hit her second double and scored the game-winning run.

The Missouri Tigers will continue the Charleston Southern Tournament, as they play rematches against both James Madison and Charleston Southern on Feb. 11.