13-seed Mizzou opens SEC tourney with MS State takedown
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The 13-seed Missouri Tigers (34-23, 7-17 SEC) outlasted the 12-seed Mississippi State Bulldogs (28-25, 7-16 SEC), 3-1, in the opening game of the SEC Softball Tournament behind a complete-game gem by Laurin Krings and offensive leaders Kara Daly and Jenna Laird.
Krings allowed only two hits and one walk in seven innings of work while striking out three. Daly went 2-for-3 with an RBI-double and a walk as Laird went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Maddie Snider's triple scored the first run of the game for Missouri and Alex Honnold also came in clutch with a go-ahead RBI double in the fifth inning.
Pitcher Reis Beuerlein showed signs of a promising start for the Bulldogs, drawing groundouts from the first two Mizzou batters before Daly became the first to find herself on the bases, working her way to a walk after a seven-pitch at bat.
The Tigers put the pressure on with a quick steal by Daly and a walk for Julia Crenshaw following her own eight-pitch battle; however, the Bulldogs would escape the first inning unscathed as Beuerlein sent Riley Frizell down swinging.
Krings needed only 11 pitches to Beuerlein's 28 in the first frame as Mizzou knocked down three straight batters.
Mississippi State earned a quick two outs in the top of the second, but Shea Moreno lost her grip on a routine ground ball, putting Payton Jackson on first base with what would prove to be a costly error. Snider capitalized on the two-out opportunity, sending a line drive into right center field to score the first run of the game with a clutch triple, 1-0. As the Tigers sent their leadoff batter up to the plate, the threat of a rally loomed, but Laird grounded out and the Bulldogs pulled themselves out of the inning with minimal damage.
Moreno came to the plate with two outs and redemption on her mind, doubling down the left field line for Mississippi State. However, Hull sent a chopping grounder to the 5-6-hole where Laird made a smooth back hand grab, firing it over to first just in time to close out the second inning unharmed.
The bats went quiet until the bottom of the fourth when Nadia Barbary brought the Bulldogs back to life. She led off the inning with a line drive missile down the left field line that found its way over the fence to even the score, 1-1. But the Tigers bounced back, turning away the next three batters to enter the fifth frame fired up.
Mississippi State held on against Mizzou's energy, drawing two groundouts before Laird singled to right center and advanced to second on a fielding error. The Tigers capitalized once again as Honnold blasted a double to center, easily scoring Laird while just missing a trot around the bases, and they again had the lead, 2-1.
Daly's single to the 5-6-hole set runners on the corner, causing a Bulldogs' timeout. They executed their drawn-up play perfectly, as catcher Jackie McKenna's pump fake toward second caught Honnold red-handed in between third base and home, snagging the last out of the fifth inning at the plate.
Despite the Bulldogs' momentum following their dazzling defensive play, their batters couldn't find a gap. Entering the sixth inning, Josey Marron relieved Beuerlein in the circle and Macy Graf took over second base for Moreno. Frizell's one-out double was the Tigers' only hit of the inning, sending Mississippi State back to the drawing board on offense.
Facing their last few chances to come back, leadoff pinch hitter Matalasi Faapito's eight-pitch quality at bat drew a walk and Brylie St. Clair reentered to put speed on the bases. Chloe Malau'ulu moved St. Clair to second with a slow infield groundout, but the Bulldogs couldn't bring her across the plate, stranding the tying run on the bases.
Determined to keep the Tigers at bay, Marron sent the first two batters to the dugout. However, Laird wouldn't go down so easily, singling up the middle and advancing to second after Honnold was hit by a pitch. Daly worked her way to a full count and sent two hot shots into foul territory, foreshadowing her line drive down the left field line. It fell just fair, sending up chalk and providing some more insurance for the Tigers, 3-1. With runners on second and third, Crenshaw grounded out to Marron in the circle as MS State faced their last chance for victory.
Krings continued to dominate on the mound, shutting down three straight batters to earn the complete-game round one win and advance the Tigers.
Missouri will face 5-seed Alabama (38-17, 14-10 SEC) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Mississippi State awaits the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night. The bracket for the NCAA Tournament will be released at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.