Kim Wert’s midseason surge revives Mizzou’s softball season | Mizzou Sports News


By Max Baker Special for the Post-Dispatch

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The source of the Missouri softball team’s turnaround may have emerged April 23 at an Embassy Suites hotel.

Kim Wert was in trouble. The Missouri third baseman and designated player had seen her batting average drop more than 30 points in less than two weeks and the team had lost all but one of the Southeastern Conference series before heading to Lexington, Kentucky.

But unlike many hotels that hosted MU on the road this year, this Embassy Suites served up Lucky Charms. Wert, a native of Virginia, ate toasted oatmeal cereal “all the time” as a kid. So when she saw them as a breakfast option every morning in Kentucky, she didn’t hesitate.

Over the next three games, Wert went 6 for 7 with four homers, including two Grand Slams, and 13 RBIs as the Tigers swept the No. 12 Wildcats. Wert’s second Grand Slam flew through the board. edge into left field, a fly ball she considers one of the longest of her career.

When the team got home, the first thing Wert thought about was going to the grocery store. But his teammates beat him to it. She didn’t have to travel.

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“I have 15 boxes in the back of my car right now,” Wert said.

As Wert goes, so does Missouri. The team is 13-1 in games it has won this year. And as Wert plays his best ball of the season, so does Missouri. Fresh off a Texas A&M sweep weekend, the Tigers (31-17, 11-9 SEC) are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, their longest of the season, and are back in the national ranking at No. 24.

“We’re having fun again,” Wert said. “We put so much pressure on ourselves not only to win, but also to exceed everyone’s expectations. It put too much pressure on us in the area, in the circle, in defence. We just started having fun again, enjoying each other’s company and playing again for the right reasons.

Preseason expectations didn’t just revolve around a Women’s College World Series appearance. Entering this year, Wert was nine homers away from breaking Missouri’s all-time record of 48 homers, set by Jen Bruck in 2008.

By the end of February, Wert had hit six and tied the United record 10 games later against Illinois.

But the record began to weigh on her, and she went homeless in eight straight games. Finally, on a 1-0 pitch late in the fifth inning against South Carolina on April 1, she broke through. Although his 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19 and another year spent at Hofstra, his name is now in the record books.

“So many people told me she couldn’t play at this level,” Tigers coach Larissa Anderson said. “I knew deep down that she could. I wanted so much more for her to prove to everyone who said no. For her to break records and be one of the best hitters in the SEC just shows you her commitment and dedication and how hard she’s worked to get to this level.

Heading into this weekend’s final regular season series at No. 6 Alabama, Wert is hitting .333 with a team leading 15 home runs and 49 RBIs, and Missouri is in fourth place in the SEC.

“She’s just a great hitter,” said senior center Brooke Wilmes. “She knows exactly what she wants and she’s going to get up there and attack it. But she also knows that if she doesn’t have her game, we’ll get her back. When she does, she has a huge impact on this team, and when she doesn’t, we’re going to do everything we can as a team to get her back.

When Wert struggled at home plate in two games against Texas A&M last weekend, the rest of the roster picked her up.

“A lot of things fell into place at the right time,” Wilmes said. “We worked on all three parts of our game together. We didn’t have any here and there. Now all three of them work and they feed off each other.

Unless the Tigers win this weekend’s series at No. 6 Alabama or make it an extended stay at next week’s SEC Tournament in Gainesville, Fla., they’re unlikely to host a NCAA region, although their RPI ranking remains high at No. 20. are not focused on that, however. When Anderson receives a weekly report from the SEC, she doesn’t even open it.

“I just want to worry about Mizzou softball and that we take care of what we’re doing,” Anderson said.

Wert’s recent success isn’t just in lucky charms. She put more work into her swing and started using her legs. But she takes no risks.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of eating them,” she said.

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