The Tigers 2012 softball season is certainly going to be full of ups and downs. Hopefully more ups than downs, but there are undoubtably some big challenges on the schedule this year.
Looking at the lineup for the first week of the season, I think the Quality Inn Classic will be a breeze. The biggest possible challenge for the team will be when they face the Trojans of Troy University. Troy’s biggest threat will come in the circle from freshman pitcher and power hitter, Jaycee Affeldt. Affeldt was named to the Canadian Junior National Team over the summer where she pitched only seven innings but she was batting an impressive .423.
Moving on down the schedule is where Mizzou’s first real test will come calling. The Cathedral City Classic tournament in Palm Springs, California could prove to be the spark plug to the first part of the season. The Tigers should be able to handle UC Davis with only a little trouble but it is the second match up of the tournament
where we are going to see what this young team is really made of. Number five Mizzou will take on Number 20 Nebraska in the first match up of top 20 teams in the 2012 season. Nebraska finished 41-14 last season and come into this season with only two freshman on the squad. Those two freshman however could be Mizzou’s downfall. One of those freshman is the 5’9” infielder Mattie Fowler. Her senior season, Fowler was batting a staggering .569, which influenced her being chosen as the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Arizona. With the immense amount of upperclassmen leadership plus, two highly talented freshman, Nebraska will surely be Mizzou’s first real test of the season.
Championships, eleven conference titles, and six number one Preseason Players to Watch. Including the number one player on that list this season, the Northwestern junior shortstop Emily Allard. Although Mizzou is ranked higher than any of those three teams, UCLA also has the experience of Pac-12 play. That experience is something that can’t be overlooked in the world of softball. The Pac-12 softball dynasty is possibly one of the biggest in college sports and it will give them a competitive advantage in any game they play.
The next two tournaments for the Tigers are being played in-state and they shouldn’t have a problem taking the title in both tournaments. The biggest challenge should come in the DeMarini Invitational when Mizzou hosts Boise State.
The Broncos went 37-20 last season and they will return 14 girls from the 2011 squad. Devin Bridges will be the player to watch in this game for the Broncos. This powerful sophomore set records last season leading the team with 16 home runs, 53 runs batted in, and a batting average of .393. Through the second half of tournament play, Bridges is the one you need to keep your eye on.
The beginning of the season holds four tournaments for the Tiger. All of which they have the potential to win. My current prediction is that when the team travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas in week four of the season they will be sitting on a 17-3 record with losses coming against Northwestern, UCLA, and Boise State.