For the second straight season, the University of Missouri will play host to the NCAA Super Regional round (Saturday, May 28, 8:00 P.M., ESPN2), as the No. 5 Missouri Tigers (50-8) will face off against the No. 12 Washington Huskies (37-14), in the best-of-three series, with the winner advancing to the Women's College World Series.
The Tigers are coming off their fourth straight NCAA Regional victory on Sunday, after coming through the loser's bracket, and defeating the DePaul Blue Demons on Sunday in two straight elimination games. Mizzou is looking to move on to their third consecutive WCWS.
Washington arrives in Columbia after sweeping all three games in the Seattle Regional, with a 6-2 win over Portland State on Thursday, and wins over BYU on Friday and Saturday, by scores of 4-1 and 7-5. Kaitlin Inglesby was named tournament MVP and Jenn Salling, Maggie Wagner, and Niki Williams were named to the Seattle Regional NCAA Tournament Team. The Huskies are headed to the Super Regionals for the sixth time in seven years under Head Coach Heather Tarr.
Washington finished tied for sixth in the PAC-10 with a 9-12 record and was one of seven of the eight PAC-10 teams to make the tournament, and one of six league schools to advance to the Super Regionals. Washington is No. 15 in the NFCA poll and No. 14 in the ESPN.com/USA Today poll, but received the No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In their 19-year history, the Huskies have made the NCAA tournament 18 times. The Huskies have been to 10 WCWS, including the last two years, and won the 2009 National Championship. Head Coach Heather Tarr has an impressive 34-14 postseason record.
Washington is led by a pair of All-PAC-10 First-Teamers, in junior CF Kimi Pohlman, who is batting .435 with 56 runs, 77 hits, 95 total bases and is 25-29 in stolen base attempts, and junior 1B Niki Williams, who leads the Huskies with 14 home runs, 56 RBI and 40 walks. Senior SS Jenn Salling, who was named PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year, has a team-high 16 doubles.
Freshman Kaitlin Inglesby has been solid for UW at the plate and in the circle, and was named to the All-PAC-10 Second-Team. Her .427 batting average is second on the team, and she carries a .791 slugging percentage. In the circle, she has a 2.26 ERA, 25-8 record and 158 strikeouts in 204.2 innings.
Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, sophomore Chelsea Thomas, leads the way for the Big 12 Champion Missouri Tigers. A Top 3 Finalist for National Player of the Year, Thomas brings a 29-6 record, with a 0.82 ERA, into the Super Regional round. With 342 strikeouts, in 231.2 innings, Thomas averages 1.5 strikeouts/inning, in addition to limiting opponents to a .141 BA.
Senior CF Rhea Taylor caught fire during the three elimination games that Missouri played last weekend, and now leads Missouri with her .378 BA. On the season, Taylor has scored 50 runs, and is 41-43 in stolen base attempts. Ashley Fleming, (.365 BA, 14 HRs, 60 RBI, .742 slugging percentage) who has led Missouri in most offensive categories all season, also enjoyed a productive regional at the plate. Taylor and Fleming were recently named to the All-Big 12 Second-Team.
Joining Thomas on the All-Big 12 First Team were a trio of Tiger infielders. Sophomore 3B Nicole Hudson (.337 BA, 12 HR, 49 RBI), sophomore SS Jenna Marston (.329 BA, 54 R, .459 OBP), and senior 2B Abby Vock (.330 BA, 6 HR, .458 OBP), are all coming off of good weekends, as Missouri advances into the Super Regional round of play.
Missouri appears to be the deeper team, and the Tigers have the better pitcher. Yet, Pohlman, Williams, and Inglesby appear to be terrific players, capable of carrying the Huskies. It appears that Inglesby has improved as a pitcher during her freshman season, and her offensive numbers are very impressive!
Both teams have emerged from very strong conferences, and each have the pedigree to expect to advance.
For Missouri, Chelsea Thomas is the key, along with the recent resurgence of Taylor and Fleming. If Taylor plays like she did last Sunday, and if Thomas is able to pitch as she has all season, the Tigers should be able to advance.