By Karl Roskamp
Missouri pitcher Chelsea Thomas was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week Monday.
The conference recognition is Thomas’ fourth of the season and the 16th of her career. Thomas leads all SEC players in weekly awards this season, including three pitchers who have two honors apiece.
Thomas won her two starts against No. 11 LSU and picked up her SEC-leading 10th conference win. Her record is currently 17-4. She pitched 14 innings, struck out 23 batters, walked one and allowed three earned runs.
On Friday, Thomas struck out 13 batters and allowed two hits in a complete game as No. 12 Missouri’s beat LSU 6-1. She pitched another complete game Sunday with 10 strikeouts as part of a 3-2 win. Both wins came against senior Rachele Fico, who was selected over Thomas for the 2013 SEC Preseason All-Conference First Team.
The Pitcher of the Week honor comes on the heels of an exhausting weekend against Arkansas. Last Friday and Saturday, Thomas pitched 15 innings, struck out 15, allowed one earned run and came away with one win and one loss. On Sunday, coach Ehren Earleywine pulled her after three innings due to “fatigue.”
“I have to do a better job of managing Chelsea,” Earleywine said after Sunday’s loss.
He proposed a scenario where Thomas pitches only Friday and Sunday and not pitch at all on Saturday.
“Maybe (the team) just takes a loss on Saturday,” he said. “I need to keep her fresher because she’s running on fumes.”
Earleywine’s strategy played out as planned against LSU. Missouri won both of Thomas’ starts and lost 8-0 in the Saturday game that senior Nicole Hudson pitched.
Thomas will have the opportunity to add to her resume as Missouri faces two ranked opponents in the next two weeks. Missouri will face No. 17 Kentucky in a series this weekend in Lexington, Ky., and No. 5 Tennessee in a series at home next weekend.