University of Missouri fifth year Kimberly Wert goes to hit the ball

Missouri fifth year Kimberly Wert goes to hit the ball on Saturday at Mizzou Softball Stadium. The Tigers fell to Arizona 2-0, setting up an elimination against Missouri State, which Missouri won 2-0.

Whether it was because it was facing the same pitcher for the second day in a row or because it was staring the end of its season in the eyes, Missouri softball rode an early lead to a 2-0 victory over Missouri State on Saturday at Mizzou Softball Stadium. The Tigers’ win keeps their season alive and gives them a chance to win the Columbia Regional on Sunday.

Jenna Laird got Missouri’s offense started against Bears pitcher Steffany Dickerson with a triple to lead off the game. Brooke Wilmes plated Laird with an RBI single on the first pitch she saw, giving the Tigers a lead two batters into the game.

“You can win the game in the first inning, and that’s what Jenna and Brooke did,” MU coach Larissa Anderson said. “The game is not always won in the seventh inning with the game on the line. The game could be won in the first inning, and they beared down and they took advantage of that opportunity.”

In the second inning, Kara Daly did more damage with one swing, driving a solo home run to right field to extend the Tigers’ lead to 2-0.

Missouri turned to Laurin Krings in the circle to stave off elimination, and the sophomore delivered. In a complete-game, 109-pitch effort, Krings allowed three hits and struck out 11.

“What I’m loving about our pitching staff right now is how deep they’re going into games and how confident they are,” Anderson said. “In our conversations that we have in the dugout and what’s happening on the mound, I don’t see that freshman wide-eyed nervousness out of Krings. ... It’s way more strategic rather than emotional.”

Krings worked around her share of traffic. She used a strikeout to end the first, third and fifth innings with runners on first and second in each one. Krings faced the minimum in her other four innings of work.

Missouri lost 2-0 to Arizona in its first game Saturday, forcing the Tigers into the elimination game with Missouri State later in the day. Missouri now moves on to Sunday — the final day of the Columbia Regional — where it will need to defeat Arizona twice without losing to advance to super regionals.

In the morning game, Arizona pestered Missouri starter Jordan Weber from the onset. In each of the first four innings, one of the Wildcats’ first two batters reached safely. In more than one instance, Arizona put multiple runners on base with less than two outs.

The Wildcats were in position to strike in the bottom of the first after Sharlize Palacios singled and Allie Skaggs worked a full-count walk with one out, but Weber forced back-to-back groundouts to get out of the jam.

A lightning delay paused the game for 78 minutes in the bottom of the third. When play resumed, Weber walked the first batter she faced, again putting runners on first and second with one out. Once again, she escaped unharmed.

Arizona broke through in the fifth inning. Weber retired the first two batters she faced but hit the third. Carlie Scupin then deposited a 3-2 pitch over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer and the only score of the game.

Hanah Bowen pitched a complete game for Arizona. She allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six.

Krings and Weber combined to allow two runs in 12 innings Saturday, and the Tigers will need similar performances out of their starters to move on in the NCAA Tournament. If Missouri forces a second game Sunday, it will play five games in three days, heavily taxing the pitching staff.

“I’m gonna look at some video from what Arizona did to make some decisions, but it’s gonna be Susie all-staff,” Anderson said. “Get ourselves through, and we know we win game one we got a quick turnaround for game two and it’ll pretty much be the same mentality.”

Missouri will also need production from its offense, which has sputtered since the beginning of the postseason. The Tigers have scored 12 runs in seven games since the start of the SEC Tournament.

Originally published on columbiamissourian.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.