Washington sticks to plan vs. Mizzou
Field conditions in Norman, Okla., forced the postponement of Game 1 between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 16 Texas A&M, so it's an abbreviated super regional notebook for the first day of play.
Columbia super regional
Game 1 score: Washington 2, Missouri 1 (8 innings)
What happened: It appeared for much of the night that Washington would pay the price after it failed to score with runners on second and third and no outs in the top of the first inning against Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas, much as Hofstra missed a chance to take command of last week's regional when it loaded the bases with no outs but failed to score in the first inning of its first game against the Tigers. But Missouri's defense on this night, so good for the first six innings, handed the visitor another chance in the seventh inning when a wild pitch and an error played major roles in pinch runner Dani Braun scoring on Shawna Wright's infield single to tie the game 1-1. That set the stage for Victoria Hayward to double home Kelli Suguro in the top of the eighth with what proved to be the winning run (after another Missouri error allowed Suguro to take second on an infield single).
Player of note: Kaitlin Inglesby, Washington. First, she matched Thomas basically out for out in the first six innings. She allowed just four hits, and the ball never left the infield on the sequence that led to the lone run against her. But Inglesby also got the game-tying rally started with a leadoff walk (later pinch run for by Braun) against a pitcher who doesn't walk many people. In fact, Inglesby drew the only two walks of the night against Thomas.
Washington coach Heather Tarr also deserves mention for sticking to a philosophy. When Inglesby walked to lead off the seventh, Tarr elected not to sacrifice her into scoring position. That decision appeared to backfire when Kylee Lahners struck out for the third time, but a wild pitch allowed Inglesby to take second anyway. After Suguro reached second base to lead off the eighth inning, Tarr again could have sacrificed her first out to move the go-ahead run to third for a possible sacrifice fly/passed ball scoring opportunity. Instead, Tarr let Hayward swing away, and the ensuing double eventually won the game. Sometimes it pays not to give away outs.
What's next: It's what the conversation always comes to with Missouri. What will Thomas have, and how long will she have it? Entering the NCAA tournament, Thomas had a 5.04 ERA in instances in which she pitched the day after (or later the same day of) appearances of at least five innings. The ERA is a little unfair -- a sizable chunk of the damage came in one bad start at Alabama. But there's a reason Missouri didn't put her in those situations down the stretch as she copes with a forearm issue. Of course, she then went out in a regional and threw a one-hitter in a must-win game against a good Hofstra lineup a day after she threw a shutout against the same team.
So what does it mean? Even after going eight innings in Game 1, Thomas could come out sharp Friday and shut down Washington once. But there is nothing in the record this season to suggest she can throw three good games in two days at the moment. That doesn't mean Missouri can't come back; it likely does mean it will have to win at least one game with its bats -- bats that have been largely cold this postseason.
The math is harsh for Missouri. Teams that won Game 1 advanced in 53 of 64 super regionals since the round was added in 2005. Missouri will look to become the eighth team to lose Game 1 at home and still advance (something it failed to do after it lost the first game at home against LSU a season ago).