No. 8 Mizzou softball opens NCAA Tournament with run-rule victory over Illinois-Chicago
Missouri softball's national reputation was based on how strong its lineup is, and how it could score against any pitcher.
The No. 8 Tigers opened their slate in the NCAA Tournament's Columbia regional by proving they're no slouch from the circle either.
Missouri defeated the Illinois-Chicago Flames 8-0 in six innings behind a one-hitter from starting pitcher Jordan Weber on Friday night at Mizzou Softball Stadium.
"Our confidence is already through the roof right now, even coming into this game. So that obviously just helped us going forward into tomorrow and the next day," Missouri catcher Hatti Moore said. "We know we're an awesome team. We know what we have and we're playing, like coach has been saying, the best softball that we can play right now."
The Tigers advance to the winner's matchup against Northern Iowa at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Panthers defeated Iowa State 8-0 via run-rule as well on Friday.
Mizzou Softball Stadium operated at 100% capacity for the game, with every home game this season previously capping attendance at 20% capacity.
Official attendance for the game was 2,092, with the venue holding around 2,500 people.
"The crowd was amazing. They had so much energy, so much life," Missouri head coach Larissa Anderson said. "It was just so great to play in front of a crowd that size. I'm real excited for tomorrow."
"That was one of the best environments that I've ever played in front of," Moore added.
Illinois-Chicago and Iowa State play in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The teams remaining with one loss after the Flames versus Cyclones game will play each other on Saturday night.
Weber had a no-hitter through 5.1 innings, giving up Illinois-Chicago's only hit on a bloop single to shallow center field, which landed after Missouri shortstop Jenna Laird couldn't complete the running catch.
"I don't really like to know," Weber said of her status in the middle of a no-hit bid. "It's kind of like, 'Don't jinx it. Don't say anything.' I try not to worry about it too much in the middle of the game."
Weber only allowed four base runners on two walks and a hit-by-pitch. She improved to 11-5 on the season by throwing 99 pitches to 22 batters.
The Tigers haven't had a postseason no-hitter since Chelsea Thomas dominated DePaul a day short of a decade earlier on May 22, 2011.
"She has been so close so many times, taking perfect games and no-hitters into the fifth and sixth," Anderson said of Weber. "I'm just so unbelievably proud of her because (she's) never played in an atmosphere like this. She's never played in an NCAA regional and (in front of) a crowd of this size, knowing what's at stake. I'm just so proud she responded the way she did."
Missouri center fielder Brooke Wilmes led off the game with a home run that cleared the right-field fence by at least 30 feet. The long ball broke the Tigers' single-season team home run record.
Wilmes' ninth home run of the season gave Missouri 83 as a team, besting the 82 homers hit by the 2005 Tigers.
Moore connected for a two-run single down the right-field line to end the game with only one out in the bottom of the sixth.
The winning hit took place a little more than 14 hours before the scheduled first pitch against Northern Iowa.
"I know they're going to be ready to go tomorrow," Anderson said. "I worry more about when we finish tomorrow, when we win tomorrow, how they're going to feel on Sunday. That's when it's going to catch up to them. This game is over with. You can feel good about it for five minutes. Then you got to get some treatment. You got to get to bed."
Moore and designated player Cayla Kessinger both had hits in every plate appearance they had in the game, combining to go 7-for-7.
This was the first NCAA Tournament game to take place at Mizzou Softball Stadium, which opened in 2017, the year after MU last hosted and University Field ended being the Tigers' venue.
Contact Eric Blum at email@example.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.
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