OKLAHOMA CITY | With Missouri's softball dream season come to an unseemly end with a second straight loss in the Women's College World Series, Marla Schweisberger spoke without apology.
"We didn't get here on accident," said Schweisberger, a sophomore first baseman-outfielder out of Raytown South who drove in Missouri's only runs of a 5-2 elimination by Georgia on Saturday.
"We played some tough teams and we were really confident in ourselves."
Missouri, winning the Big 12 Conference Tournament on this same ASA Hall of Fame Stadium field, won its own NCAA Tournament Regional, then won at national second seed UCLA in the best two of three Super Regional in Westwood, Calif.
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The Tigers came to Oklahoma City - for their first trip to the softball World Series in 15 seasons - already having won a school record 50 games.
"We wanted to go out and play like we have through the stretch," Schweisberger said. "We felt like we could hang with these teams. It just didn't work out."
MU lost its 11th game of the year 7-3 to defending champion Arizona State on Thursday, and to a Georgia team also facing elimination on Saturday.
A lack of timely hitting hurt in both games. Coach Ehren Earleywine complained about a bouncy playing surface that hampered drop-ball ace pitcher Chelsea Thomas in the first loss, and briefly about Georgia winning pitcher Christie Hamilton throwing illegal sidestep pitches in the second defeat.
Hamilton was called for one illegal pitch, for her lead foot landing outside the 24-inch lane marked by lines leading from the edge of the pitching rubber with the pitching circle.
But home plate umpire Sally Walker - who would be involved in a controversial call later that benefited Missouri - told Earleywine she was concentrating on calling balls and strikes and didn’t see any more illegal sidesteps.
“You just wonder how many times it was illegal,” Earleywine said, adding that it was a tough call for the home plate umpire and there was no point in complaining any more.
“I kind of always look at the umpire like the police,” Earleywine said. “The more you make ‘em mad, the worse it gets.”
Earleywine was full of praise for an MU roster filled with players who were not heavily recruited by other schools.
“We didn’t come here just to come here,” Earleywine said. “I’ve very proud of the job that they’ve done, in overachieving, really.
“Nobody would expect a group of kids who weren’t recruited like they were to make it this far.”
That did not salve the pain for many Missouri players, particularly ace freshman pitcher Chelsea Thomas, who in two World Series starts gave up 11 runs, 10 of them earned, in six innings.
Going back to Thomas taking the second-game loss to UCLA in the Super Regionals, in Thomas final three outings in a 16-7 season she gave up 16 runs (15 earned) in 11 innings and went 0-3.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Thomas, who plans on coming back as a sophomore with a rise ball pitch to go with her change up and a drop ball that has been registered as fast as 74 miles an hour.
The final game of Missouri’s season - settled when Georgia’s Krystyn Sandberg lined a two-run home run to center off Thomas for a 3-0 Georgia lead in the fourth inning - had some bizarre moments.
Missouri had two runners on and one out in the top of the sixth when Andee Allen hit a low liner to the right side.
Georgia maintained first baseman Brianna Hesson caught the liner on the fly. Home plate umpire Walker ruled it a trap.
It took an umpire’s conference to confirm the trap, rather than one or both of the MU base runners being doubled off.
MU pinch runner Michaele Vock was not sure, nor was Georgia shortstop Kristin Schnake, who tagged every MU player on the field, including Vock twice.
“Nobody really knew what to do,” Schnake said. “I even talked to the Missouri runner (Vock). Do I tag you, do I come in the dugout? She said, `I don’t know either.’
“We were just having fun with it.”
Walker gave MU a break by awarding Vock second base, even though Vock had been trying to get back to first after the play.
Schweisberger cashed in for Missouri with a two-run single, taking second on the throw home.
But for Georgia, all was well that ended well.
Missouri players - particularly seniors like Micaela Minner who had just played in her last game as a Tiger, were admittedly sad but proud to have made the national finals tournament.
“The trip here. . .” Minner said, “It’s been like one of my lifetime dreams. I’m not that little kid, sitting at home watching on TV, wishing I was here.”
Minner and her teammates main regret was their stay was no longer.