Mizzou softball carries momentum from sweep into final stretch of regular season

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri's Jenna Laird (3) rounds third base after hitting a home run during a game against Mississippi State on Saturday at Mizzou Softball Stadium.

Missouri softball entered its Southeastern Conference series against Mississippi State over the weekend having lost three straight games.

For a team hoping to host an NCAA regional next month, that streak couldn't continue, especially against an opponent coming to Columbia without a win in league play. 

Missouri took care of business with a sweep of the Bulldogs, winning both games of a Saturday doubleheader and the series finale Sunday.

The Tigers won 5-2 in Saturday's opener before holding off the Bulldogs 4-3 in the second game Saturday and 6-5 on Sunday.

"I have been saying from the very beginning: The key is going to be our pitching. It really starts with our pitching and making sure that we have good outings, and I thought today was a perfect example of pitching by committee," Missouri coach Larissa Anderson said after Sunday's victory. "... They all came in and they did an excellent job and did what they were supposed to do. Jordan (Weber did) a great job coming in and closing them down at the end. That was outstanding, especially for her first save of her career.

"But overall, and what I told the team in the locker room is that I think really what set the tone is after we gave up two runs in that first inning, drawing those first three walks. That's showing me that they're really having some quality at-bats and seeing the ball really well, not trying to do too much. And that's exactly what they have to do."

Missouri's Jordan Weber (23) delivers a pitch during a game against Mississippi State on Saturday at Mizzou Softball Stadium.

Missouri's record stands at 32-10 overall and 10-5 in the SEC heading into a mid-week matchup against Kansas City at home on Wednesday, before heading back on the road to face Arkansas this weekend. 

The matchup against the Roos ends an important eight-game homestand for the Tigers, with a record of 4-3 heading into the final contest over that 11-day period. 

Over the weekend, Missouri freshman shortstop Jenna Laird went 6-for-9 at the plate with two home runs, two doubles, six runs and five RBIs. She also drove in the game-winning run Sunday against the Bulldogs. 

"I was just really hoping to make contact every single time because I hadn't been doing the best at the plate," Laird said, despite her .431 batting average. "That's really what I did this weekend."

While Missouri's strategy to winning games starts inside the circle, it doesn't mind using the firepower in its lineup as well. 

Of the 10 usual starters in the Tigers' lineup, everyone has a batting average at .283 or above. Six are at .317 or higher. 

"With our offensive power, we're never out of a game," Anderson said. "As long as we have one out, we have an opportunity to be able to tie it up or win. And that just shows you the fight that they have. And they truly believe in one another all the way through.

"And it's great to see when we win games in other capacities, so that we didn't rely on a home run today. We manufactured some runs. We had some great situational hitting. We had unbelievable base running by Imani Myint and I think Hannah McGivern being that trail runner, beating that forceout at second base.

"You look at all aspects of the game. And we really put it together right now. And I know that's just going to carry us through, that we have to believe that we have every opportunity to win every single game. And we just have to make sure we put all the pieces together."

After Tuesday, Missouri has three home games remaining, a series against Florida on April 30 through May 2. 

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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