COLUMBIA — Missouri was seeing the ball well and hitting it hard through the first two innings Friday night.
So hard, in fact, that in the second inning, Missouri head coach Larissa Anderson had to limbo out of the way of a rocket down the third-base line hit well, but foul, by catcher Hatti Moore. The Tigers had the bases loaded with nobody out, so once she saw her coach was OK and laughing as she stood up and dusted herself off. Brooke Wilmes, who was on third, told Anderson she must have been a break-dancer in her past life.
"Growing up in the '80s I listened to Michael Jackson every once in a while, but I'm not going to share that with them," Anderson said with a laugh. "It keeps things light. They know they can laugh, I'm laughing at myself, and that's the relationship we have. It's pretty neat."
It was all smiles Friday for the Tigers, as they run-ruled Texas A&M 8-0 in five innings and improved to 26-18, 9-8 in the Southeastern Conference.
The team that won six conference games and one SEC series a year ago and was picked last in this year's preseason poll has won nine games and three conference series with seven SEC games to play, and will likely make its 13th consecutive NCAA Tournament regional appearance.
Missouri will try to sweep the three-game series from the Aggies today at noon.
"I didn't even realize that we had nine wins, because I feel like it just comes natural to us," said Wilmes, who was 1-for-3 with a run scored. "Last year we were just, really hoping for those wins, and hoping to go in there and get a win, but now we go into every single game and we know we're going to compete. And even if we don't win, we know that we gave it all that we can, and we're going to come out and win that next game."
The confidence on this team is contagious. Cassie Gasper, who threw five shutout innings and gave up four hits with no walks and no strikeouts, said she sees the difference most clearly in her teammates' defense.
Kim Wert had five assists and made several tough plays at third base, including the start of a 5-4-3 double play in the top of the fifth to erase a leadoff single and get the first two outs of the frame. Five pitches later, Wert back-handed a grounder at the third-base bag and ended the game with a 5-3 putout.
"They've developed so much as an infield and an outfield," Gasper said. "I know when the ball gets hit, as long as it's not a hard-hit ball in the gap or something, they're going to make the play. They're going to turn double-plays, they're going to make every play that they need to make behind me. So I have full confidence in them, that I don't have to get strikeouts, I can just roll out ground balls and pop-ups and I know they're going to make the plays."
Friday, it was Missouri's well-hit balls and aggressive baserunning that put the pressure on Texas A&M and forced mistakes. The Tigers scored three runs in the first on one hit, and five in the second on three hits, thanks to four walks in the first two frames and a pair of two-out errors by the Aggies that resulted in four unearned runs.
Moore and Jazmyn Rollin, who Thursday was named one of 25 NFCA National Freshman of the Year finalists, each scored twice and drove in a run for Missouri, Kara Decker drove in two runs and Kendyll Bailey hit 2-for-2 at the plate.