Missouri sophomore pitcher Kristin Nottelmann is being called upon to take over the primary pitching duties for the Tiger softball team during the absence of the Tigers' ace pitcher, Chelsea Thomas.
Thomas, a sophomore from Pleasantville, Iowa is out indefinitely while receiving treatment for, and resting, what has been diagnosed as a mid-grade stress fracture of the distal one-third of the ulna on her right (pitching) arm. Through just under half of the season, Thomas has posted a 12-1 record, with 123 strikeouts in 77.1 IP, and a 1.72 ERA.
Missouri Head Coach Ehren Earleywine talked about Thomas' injury, and the outlook for her return to the line-up. "They (doctors) felt like they caught it pretty early............. If it's done healing quickly enough, we'll bring her back for this season. If it's going to take six to eight weeks for her to heal, and then she'll have to pitch herself back into shape, the season might be over at that point. In that situation, we'll probably red shirt her. We still meet all of the criteria for a medical red shirt. The next couple of weeks of doctor's visits will determine what we'll do with her for the next year."
She'll miss nearly a month of the season, at least, and could be faced with sitting out until next year.
Nottelmann, a two-time All-State selection from Fenton, Missouri and Rockwood Summit, is Coach Earleywine's choice as the team's new ace, at least for the next month. She has a 6-3 record this season, after 10 starts, with 45 strikeouts in 52.1 IP, and an ERA of 2.01. She's a ground ball pitcher, who doesn't register the number of strikeouts that Thomas does, but does a good job of keeping the ball in the ballpark. Her repertoire includes a rise ball, a drop ball, and a change-up.
Nottelmann talked about the increased workload. "It's my time to step up, along with the other two pitchers. We'll do our best............... I try to work on placement, making sure I hit my spots, and throw the right pitches. And, be smart about things, and not give their big hitters anything too good, to make sure it doesn't go out of the park. Our defense is stellar, and that takes a lot of the pressure off of me."
Last year, Nottelmann had the best ERA in the Big 12 Conference (1.25), led the league in saves (three), good enough for 26th best in the nation and held opponents to a .189 batting average, good enough for second best in the Big 12. In conference games alone, Nottelmann led the Big 12 with a 1.47 ERA, holding opponents to a league best .190 average. In 2009, Nottelmann made eight starts and 24 appearances in the circle, notching an 11-2 record in her first year with the Tigers. In 73 innings, the freshman allowed just 13 earned runs. She was selected to the All-Big 12 Second Team.
Senior lefty Jana Hainey, from Raymore-Peculiar in the Kansas City area, has appeared primarily in relief this season, and has a 2-0 record, in 29.1 IP, with a 2.86 ERA. Coach Earlywine will likely continue to utilize her in relief.
Hainey talked about her increased responsibilities. "It's a time for me to step up................ It's a chance for other people to step up and take their role, and compete. That's what I'm going to do."
She talked about her pitching arsenal. "There's not too many lefties in the Big 12," said Hainey. "I think that's a little bit of an advantage for me. I have a little bit more natural movement, too. That's a key for me............. I have a rise ball, a drop, a change, and a drop curve................ I've been in the role of a reliever, and I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win."
In addition, freshman Lindsey Muller, from Stilwell, KS, and Blue Valley, will see increased action in the circle for the Tigers. She's made 5 appearances this season, including 3 starts, and has a 3-0 record, with 15.1 IP, and 1.83 ERA.
Coach Earleywine talked about what his #4 Tigers will do in Thomas' absence. "We're going to scrap," said the coach. "We'll just fight. We're going to find out what Kristin can do. She throws strikes.............. When we recruited Kristin, we didn't recruit her to be the number two pitcher. We recruited her to be the ace. So, here's the ball. Let's see what you do with it."
Coach Earleywine continued. "Kristin will give us a chance to win every day.............. Going into Oklahoma, they're the #1 ranked team in the conference, we're at their place, and the place is packed. We got our number two pitcher pitching, and we beat them 11-5. I think you're going to see us having to win more games like that, instead of 2-1, or 3-1. I think our offense is going to have to score some runs. And, then there's going to be days when Kristin shuts the other team out."
Coach Earleywine said that he plans to try to minimize the number of times in a game that the opponent gets to see the same pitcher. He talked about being creative, and utilizing his senior lefty against left-handed batters, and also using all three pitchers to give opponents a different look, including utilizing the rule that allows for re-entry of the starting pitcher within a game.
Jana Hainey talked about the impact of Thomas' injury on the team's approach. "We have huge goals in mind. We still want to win the Big 12 conference, and the Big 12 Tournament, and win the National Championship. We still have those goals. So, whatever I've got to do to help my team win, that's what I'm going to do."