The Columbia regional was not all about chalk on Friday afternoon. Missouri, the host and the top seed in the region, squeaked by the No. 4 seed Missouri State. Third-seeded Arizona blew out second-seeded Illinois. Will day two unfold differently?
Missouri is the fifteenth national seed, but the Tigers came into the tournament with 20 losses just like Arizona. They started the postseason at No. 18 in RPI and likely landed a hosting gig based on a good run in their conference tournament.
After finishing 12-11 in the conference regular season, Missouri went on a tear through the SEC tournament. The Tigers played four ranked teams and beat three of them.
First up was No. 17/20 Auburn. Then came No. 5/7 Alabama. No. 13/10 Tennessee fell next. Only No. 4/5 Arkansas was able to defeat Mizzou in the postseason, taking the tournament final with a 4-0 victory over the Tigers.
It would appear to be good preparation for the NCAA Tournament where the competition level takes a step up, but how do the Tigers stack up against the Wildcats?
Unlike Arizona’s first-round opponent, Missouri is not a small-ball team, but it is a team with solid variety on offense. The Tigers only trail the Wildcats by five in team home runs. Arizona has 90 after launching four in their first-round game against Illinois. Missouri sits at 85 on the season.
The problem for the Wildcats’ pitchers is that the home runs are spread up and down the Tigers’ lineup; it’s not just one or two players they must prepare for. Four Missouri players have double-digit home runs: Kimberly Wert (17), Brooke Wilmes (14), Kara Daly (12), and Kendyll Bailey (11). That compares reasonably well to Arizona’s group of Allie Skaggs (23), Sharlize Palacios (18), Carlie Scupin (17), Paige Dimler (10), and Izzy Pacho (10).
The Tigers prove that just because your team hits home runs, it doesn’t mean the players should be afraid to steal a base or two. Missouri has attempted 67 steals this season. The Tigers were successful 52 times.
The Wildcats picked up another stolen base in their game against Illinois, but that just makes them 23 for 31 on the season.
Laurin Krings picked up the win in the circle for Missouri on Friday. The complete game brought her season innings pitched to a team-high 149.1. She sports a 2.91 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.
With her recent appearance, it appears unlikely that Arizona will face Krings, though. More likely is junior Jordan Weber. Weber has slightly better numbers than Krings, but they do not stack up well against the better pitchers the Wildcats have faced this season. The right-hander has a 2.57 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Like her teammate, she has 15 wins.
For the Wildcats, there is a strong chance that Devyn Netz starts in the circle. The sophomore has a 3.90 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. She leads Arizona with a 13-7 record.
The winner of the game will advance to game six, which will be played on Sun., May 22 at 1 p.m. MST/PDT on ESPN+. The loser will play again on Sat., May 21 on ESPN+ at 4:30 p.m. MST/PDT in an elimination game.