Emerson Stephens, 23 Sports

The Mizzou softball team really has something to prove this year. In the recent past, they have been one of the brighter points of the Mizzou athletic department, however it has not exactly been smooth sailing into this upcoming season. Ehren Earleywine had been the coach for more than a decade before being fired and the team enjoyed much success in those years. Gina Fogue is the interim coach as of now and she hopes to improve on the team’s .500 record from a season ago, but to do that a lot of girls will have to step up this year.

Last year pitching was a bit of a let down, and coming into this year the Tigers don’t have a clear cut ace. Danielle Baumgartner and Madi Norman return for the Tigers along with 3 promising new faces. Starting from the youngest, freshman Lauren Rice was a top recruit for Mizzou and she can crank it up to 70 on her fastball. She has time to grow as a player but the team could really use a big year from her. Joining her are a pair of sophomores that transferred to Mizzou this year. Nalani Scates is coming off of her freshman season at a college in California where she dominated with a 1.21 ERA and about 1.3 strikeouts per inning. Eli Daniel pitched in the NAIA division last season and was nothing short of incredible, with an ERA of 0.56. Daniel and Scates will have to face much greater competition this year in the SEC, but with numbers like that both look like solid additions. Norman is coming off a year where she started strong but couldn’t keep it up into the middle of the season. Finally Danielle Baumgartner (no, not Bumgarner) will play her third season at Mizzou. She had a stellar showing as a freshman but last year just could not put it together. There is a lot of potential to have a good year for this pitching staff, but they really do have something to prove.

Up and down the lineup there are a few question marks that will need to be answered early in the season before beginning SEC play. Regan Nash, the only senior on the team, will probably sit at the top of the lineup once again after batting 340 and swiping 17 bases a year ago while manning center field. Her along with Braxton Burnside and Cayla Kessinger will look to headline the offense this year. A corner outfield spot and catcher are potentially up for grabs to start the year. Three new recruits will compete to be behind the plate, and speedster Gabby Garrison will compete with power hitting Callie Martin will most likely take that spot in the outfield. Finally there is a need for a DP, which will go to the best offensive player left.

Against a strong SEC this will be a challenging year for a Mizzou team full of new faces. Their ranked as the 11th best of 13 teams. Gina Fogue will look to start things off strong as the Tigers are scheduled to play in 4 non conference tournaments before playing any of their SEC competition, and hopefully that will be ample time to figure things out. The season starts Thursday February 8th against San Jose State.