Laird shows off glove, bat to help Missouri snap losing streak

Missouri softball players cheer from the dugout while freshman Jenna Laird and senior Brooke Wilmes round the bases after a home run Saturday at the Mizzou Softball Stadium in Columbia. Laird hit home runs in consecutive innings for the Tigers, who won both of their games against Mississippi State on Saturday.

Ben Miglore

Missouri’s games on Saturday were reminiscent of an old episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. It seemed that everybody in the Tigers lineup got a chance to leave with a reward.

Instead of cars being handed out, it was home runs.

And Jenna Laird grabbed more than her share.

Casidy Chaumont, Kimberly Wert and Kendyll Bailey each homered in Missouri’s doubleheader sweep of Mississippi State, but Laird hit a pair and scored or drove in all but one of the Tigers’ runs as they beat the Bulldogs 5-2 and 4-3 to snap a three-game losing streak.

After Brooke Wilmes put a single up the middle to start the first game, Laird put one deep to right field. MSU’s Jackie McKenna looked like she thought it would land in the deep right field grass. She kept backing up further until she ran out of real estate and the ball dropped on top of the wall for a two-run homer.

“As soon as I hit that first one over, I kinda just said this is gonna be my game to do anything to help the team to win,” Laird said, “whether it was defensive or offensive.”

Her next time up in the third, she hit her second blast of the day. Laird ripped one over the wall in left-center to put Missouri (31-10, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) up 3-0 at the time.

“She’s such an offensive threat,” Missouri coach Larissa Anderson said. “You really don’t know if she’s gonna drop a bunt, she can slap it through. She obviously showed that she can hit for power.”

It was Laird’s glove on display late in the opener as Mississippi State (22-18, 0-11) tried to rally over the final few innings. After cutting Missouri’s lead to 4-2 in the fifth, the Bulldogs chased Jordan Weber on a lead-off double. Emma Nichols got credit for the scoreless inning in relief, but it was a pair of diving stops by Laird at shortstop that kept MSU from putting up more runs.

In the second game, it was Wilmes and Laird again combining to get the Tigers on the board early. Another leadoff single up the middle from Wilmes set up an RBI double to right-center from Laird. Laird would later come around to score on a Chaumont RBI single for a 2-0 lead early.

She also got on base with a double in the bottom of the sixth, scoring on the Wert homer to help secure the second-game win for Megan Schumacher. Laird went a combined 4 for 6 with two homers, two doubles, four RBI and four runs scored.

While Laird was showing off her stuff, Missouri starters Weber and Megan Schumacher carried perfect games into the fifth inning of their respective contests.

“I thought pitching was outstanding today,” Anderson said. “Both Jordan and Megan threw both unbelievable games.”

Each worked methodically through the first 12 batters they faced before facing cleanup hitter Carter Spexarth in the top of the fifth. She broke up both perfect-game bids, walking in the first game and putting a single just out of reach of Laird in the second.

Spexarth would be one of just two Bulldogs to have multiple hits over the two games. The other was Jackie McKenna.

While Weber would make way in the sixth for Nichols, Schumacher took her stuff into the seventh to try and close out the complete game. After letting a couple baserunners on with two outs, McKenna came up and hit a three-run shot to cut the lead to one, drawing out Nichols again for the final out of the day.