Tiger softball awaits its NCAA fate

Tiger softball awaits its NCAA fate

After a not hard to see coming loss to Alabama in the first round of the SEC Softball tournament, the Missouri Tigers enter Selection Sunday with bated breath as they hope their regular season resume meets the expectations of the committee. Their fate will be revealed on the selection show at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

Though the Tigers capped off their season with a series upset over Arkansas, their slow start to conference play and shortage of high-profile wins leave them with a less than outstanding profile for the postseason.

“I think that it’s really important when you’re looking at the best teams that go to the NCAA tournament that we’re playing our best ball right now,” head coach Larissa Anderson said after the loss on Wednesday night. “We’re really strong right now in May, going into the postseason, and that’s what you want.”

Missouri (34-24, 7-17) struggled to get any traction in one of the toughest schedules in the nation, regularly facing nationally contending teams in its conference schedule — their series victory over Arkansas was its first and only SEC series win of the entire season.

“Are we considered one of the top 64 teams in the country?” Anderson asked. “I would think so. I think our body of work speaks for itself. I think we have a very, very strong resume to be considered.”

The Tigers currently sit 40th in RPI according to the NCAA Rankings website, on the cusp of teams who are a committee decision away from having their seasons extended or cut short. They are the second-lowest SEC team in the rankings, only above No. 47 Mississippi.

Mizzou has made the NCAA Tournament every year it has been held since 2006. The Tigers have missed it just once since 2002. There is precedent for a Missouri team like this one getting in. In 2017 and 2018, Missouri finished just one game above .500, including records of 7-16 and 6-17 in the SEC. They were selected as an at-large team both times.

Despite a bitter 7-2 loss to Alabama, the Arkansas series was a high note for a team looking for anything to spark some hope. Led by Kara Daly’s two walk-off home runs, Missouri built a full head of steam going into the tournament, but couldn’t overcome a dominant outing from the Crimson Tide ace Montana Fouts (7 IP, 2 ER, 10 K).

“I feel like we’ve just had fun recently and this game obviously just fuels us and just fires us up,” said Daly. “I think these last few games kind of showed us who we are as a team.”

Ultimately, the committee will have to see if the wins against the Razorbacks late in the season outweigh the brutal start to the Tigers’ conference schedule.

The 16 regional series will start on Thursday. By the end of the night, the Tigers will know whether they’re part of the field.

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