No Missouri players selected for all-conference team
By Karl Roskamp
All-American pitcher Chelsea Thomas was not selected to the preseason All-SEC team.
The annual poll of Southeastern Conference softball coaches ranked Missouri fourth in their inaugural year in the SEC.
The Tigers are coming off a season in which they failed to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2008.
“We have a lot to prove,” coach Ehren Earleywine said. “Last year we didn’t play well and came up short of a lot of our goals.”
Missouri is projected to finish behind reigning conference and national champion No. 1 Alabama, No. 6 Tennessee and No. 10 LSU respectively. Missouri, ranked eighth in the country according to the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll, was picked to finish second in the Eastern Division behind Tennessee. Earleywine believes his team will out play preseason predictions.
“We still have a long way to go and the SEC is so tough,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I have confidence in my team being better than that.”
The Tigers will return eight starters and two pitchers this season. The roster will also feature six seniors. But with experience comes high expectations.
“I’m expecting a lot from this team,” senior catcher Jenna Marston said. “I think as along as everyone is healthy and we learn to compete well, we can compete with anybody.”
A lot of Missouri’s success will hinge on pitcher Chelsea Thomas. The redshirt senior is a two time All-American and ranked in the top 15 in the nation in shutouts and strikeouts last year. She was also seventh in strikeouts per seven innings, fifth in ERA and fourth in hits allowed per seven innings. Despite her résumé, Thomas was passed over for the preseason All-SEC team.
“I think that last year was kind of a disappointment for me,” Thomas said. “This year for me is about proving people wrong again. That’s good motivation for me.”
Alabama junior Jackie Traina and LSU senior Rachele Fico were the two pitchers selected ahead of Thomas. Of the five aforementioned statistics, Traina had more strikeouts than Thomas, but lesser numbers in the four other categories last season. Fico bested Thomas in shutouts and ERA. Despite being overlooked, Earleywine believes Thomas is still an All-American caliber pitcher.
“You have some tremendous pitchers in the SEC,” he said. “But I feel like she is one of the best pitchers, not just in the SEC, but in the country.”
Earleywine expects players in the SEC to provide Missouri with unprecedented quality in competition.
“The way the SEC differs, it’s just deeper,” he said. “You have six or seven teams in the SEC that all could potentially go to the (Women’s) College World Series.”
Despite their conference ranking and potential snubbing, enthusiasm is high.
“I’m excited,” Marston said. “From what I’ve heard, the SEC has some really good crowds so I’m looking forward to playing in front of them.”
|Preseason All-SEC Team
|Kaila Hunt, Alabama
|Raven Chavanne, Tennessee
||Thousand Oaks, Calif.
|Lauren Gibson, Tennessee
|Madison Shipman, Tennessee
|Kayla Braud, Alabama
|Morgan Estell, Auburn
|RT Cantillo, Ole Miss
||Santa Ana, Calif.
|Kat Dotson, Tennessee
|Jackie Traina, Alabama
|Rachele Fico, LSU
|Meagan May, Texas A&M
|Mel Dumezich, Texas A&M