COLUMBIA, Mo. — For the third straight game, the South Carolina Gamecocks scored first, but Missouri was unable to complete a third come-from-behind win for a series sweep, falling 5-2 on Senior Day.
With senior Madi Norman in the circle for the final time Sunday at the Mizzou Softball Stadium, South Carolina plated four runs in the top of the first inning. Jana Johns hit her fourth home run of the series, then the Gamecocks loaded the bases with one out on an error, a walk and a single. A sacrifice fly and a double completed the damage.
All told, Norman pitched 15 innings during her final weekend at home, and she settled in after the first inning, but finished with five hits and five walks for three earned runs with three strikeouts. She left with one out in the fifth inning to a standing ovation from the crowd.
"It was a great feeling," said Norman, a Tipton High School graduate. "I know the Mizzou fans have my back always, and they represented that today."
A reported crowd of 1,611, one of the best home showings of the season, said farewell to Norman and fellow seniors Kolby Romaine, Regan Nash, Raime Cohen and Cosette Tomita. The Tigers finish the regular season 32-22 overall and 12-12 in Southeastern Conference play.
Both teams managed seven hits and stranded 10 runners, but South Carolina hit .529 on advancement opportunities to Missouri's .389, and 2-for-3 with runners on third and less than two out to the Tigers' 1-for-4.
Missouri hitters also struck out eight times after going down on strikes just once in Saturday's game.
Brooke Wilmes, who hit 7-for-12 during the series from the leadoff spot, said facing a different arm in Kelsey Oh threw the team's hitting off enough.
"We hadn't faced this pitcher all weekend, and we just had to make a few adjustments here and there," she said. "This game could come down to one swing, and we just didn't execute that today."
The Tigers certainly had a shot. After a Wilmes single in the bottom of the fourth got Missouri back within two, the Gamecocks added an insurance run. In the bottom of the seventh, Hatti Moore and Kim Wert both reached with two out, bringing Kara Decker to the plate as the tying run, but Decker grounded out to second to end the game.
"That's all you can do," Missouri coach Larissa Anderson said. "You want to get that tying girl up at the plate, we had our opportunities. They competed all weekend. I'm so proud of them, and so happy for the seniors to have such a great weekend all the way around. But we're not done yet. We've got a lot of season left."
A win would have kept the Tigers in sixth place in the final SEC standings after the program was picked to finish last in the conference in Anderson's first season as head coach. Missouri ended in a four-way tie for sixth with Florida, Georgia and Arkansas, losing the tiebreaker to Florida but beating out Georgia and Alabama for seventh.
The Tigers, the No. 7 seed in the SEC Tournament, will face 10th-seeded Auburn at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Davis Diamond in College Station, Texas. The first three rounds will be shown on SEC Network, with the semifinals and finals on ESPN2.