Photos by Barbara Maningat, Story by Kelsie Heneghan
With the addition of 10 freshmen, the Missouri Tigers softball team had plenty of new faces Saturday at their annual Black and Gold game. But you won’t hear any of the Tigers say it’s a rebuilding year.
Senior power hitter Ashley Fleming hit the single home run of the day. “I was recruited to hit and I should be hitting like I have the past few years,” Fleming said. She led the team with a .356 batting average in the 2011 season.
“We don’t see it that way at all,” senior outfielder Ashley Fleming said. “There might be more ups and downs and times when you can tell that we are younger than we were last year, but ultimately, I think we are going to be in the right direction and ready when it comes time for postseason and when we need to be ready.”
Before the game started, the 2011 team received their Big 12 championship rings. Former players including Rhea Taylor and Abby Vock were there to see old teammates and reflect on last season.
“I definitely think they (the 2012 team) will have as much success as we did last year,” Taylor said. “They just have to work really, really hard. I believe that they’ll do that.”
Fleming led the Black team by hitting a homerun in the intersquad match, which helped beat the Gold team 8-0. Coach Ehren Earleywine set the lineup for his best hitters on the Black team against his ace, redshirted junior Chelsea Thomas, starting for the Gold team.
“When I made the lineup I thought, if I’m a fan, what do I want to see?” Earleywine said.
Alongside Fleming on the Black squad was freshman outfielder Kayla Kingsley, who showed why she is in contention for a roster spot this season.
“For a little girl, she’s got some real lively hands,” Earleywine said.
Kinglsey was recently out for a week after being hit in the head by a bat that had flown out of freshman Lindsey Muller’s hands. Kingsley played centerfield for the Black team on Saturday, but Earleywine said the lineup is not final; he is still deciding which freshmen to red shirt this season.
Freshman Ashtin Stephens could possibly be redshirted, as an MRI has discovered a labrum tear in her hip. Doctors will decide Monday if she will be able to play this season or not.
If this game were any indication of how the season will go, Earleywine would be pleased.
“We moved the ball around enough to get a few runs and if you get a few runs and you have Chelsea Thomas, you win the game,” Earleywine said. “Cocktail for a championship right there.”