Missouri Softball's Furious Rally Falls Short as Tigers Eliminated by Duke in Super Regionals (2024)

Missouri softball was so close.

Despite entering the ninth inning down 4-0, the Tigers came alive when it mattered most. Jenna Laird led off with a single, which was followed by a liner from Alex Honnold that Duke pitcher Cassidy Curd couldn't handle.

Then, the non-existent roof blew off of Mizzou Softball Stadium.

Abby Hay, the hometown kid, hit a three-run home run into right field. For the first time all day, after an evening filled with silent bats and a mum home crowd, there was major energy in Columbia.

Although Julia Crenshaw grounded out for the second out of the inning, Kara Daly hit a liner up the middle to keep her team alive. Up next was Madison Walker, who played hero in Regionals with a walk-off single in extra-innings.

This situation wasn't new to Larissa Anderson's crew. The cardiac cats had prevailed in the face of adversity so many times in this year's NCAA Tournament. Had they knocked off Duke in Sunday's winner-take-all in the Columbia Super Regional, the Tigers would've become the first team in the modern bracket era (since 2005) to win seven elimination games (the maximum amount a team can play from the first game of Regionals to the last game of Super Regionals) en route to an appearance in the Women's College World Series.

But on this day, adversity won out.

Walker's line drive was caught by Duke center fielder D'Auna Jennings, who catalyzed her team's massive ninth-inning rally with a solo home run. The elation she felt rounding the bases almost cost her, as it initially looked like she didn't touch home plate before fully touching it after celebrating with her teammates. Thankfully for Jennings, the umpires ruled that she barely touched it the first time, so her heroic shot stood. That same excitement poured out as she secured Duke's first WCWS appearance since the team's genesis in 2017.

On the other side was Missouri, who had a dream season come to a heartbreaking end. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat were well represented on Sunday, as across from the defeated Tigers were a joyful group of Blue Devils piling on top of each other in celebration.

Like several games during the tournament, the one on Sunday featured a pitcher's duel that had both offenses in a bind. For the Blue Devils, Curd, who'd dominated Missouri in the first two games of Supers, continued to do so in the third game. Her riseball was killer, as a handful of her seven strikeouts saw Missouri's batters get blown away by the pitch.

Her equal, Laurin Krings, approached even closer to the line between human and cyborg. In her seventh consecutive start, Krings put her team on her back once again, allowing just four hits and not giving up any walks in eight innings.

Unfortunately for Krings, who'd played the role of Sisyphus all season long for Missouri, she couldn't push the rock up the mountain much further. In the ninth inning, Jennings put one over the right field fence to give Duke a 1-0 lead. The home run knocked Krings out of the game for what would ultimately her final collegiate game.

The stunning round-tripper kicked off an offensive outburst from a Duke squad that thrived off of scoring late in games this season. With two outs, the Blue Devils plated three more runs, as the first two knocked Taylor Pannell out of the game. Marissa McCann entered, and she allowed another run when a pop-up into shallow right field couldn't be corralled by Abby Hay, who came up short on an over-the-shoulder catch attempt. Missouri's rally in the ninth came up short, and its season came to an end.

Despite the late-inning rally, the Supers hosts have its bats to blame most for the defeat, as Missouri had just three hits in the first eight innings. The offense was an issue in Regionals as well as the first game of Super against Duke. The cold bats ultimately froze MU, as not even another masterclass by Krings could lift the Tigers to victory.

Although Missouri came up short, 2024 will still go down as a season filled with immense progress and success. The Tigers were picked to finish near the bottom of a loaded SEC before the season, and they ultimately achieved a top-eight seed and were on the brink of the WCWS. With a group of talented freshman and a litany of returners, Missouri has an awfully good shot at getting back to Supers (and possibly beyond) next season.

Missouri Softball's Furious Rally Falls Short as Tigers Eliminated by Duke in Super Regionals (2024)
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