COLUMBIA, Mo. — When Mizzou softball head coach Larissa Anderson came to Columbia in 2019 from Hofstra, she knew she was inheriting a wealth of talent at a prestigious program.
Previous head coach Ehren Earleywine was fired in 2018 after being investigated in 2016 by the athletic department and Missouri Title IX office for accusations of verbal abuse by his players and seven players transferring after the 2016 season.
In the current world of the transfer portal, coaches and programs are becoming used to the idea of athletes leaving for other schools once the coaching staff changes. But for Anderson, most of the players stayed at Missouri.
“None of them left,” Anderson said after Mizzou was eliminated by Arizona in the Columbia Regional. “They’re so unbelievably committed and they bought in to what we were trying to do and that’s the legacy.”
Kimberly Wert and Casidy Chaumont were seniors that transferred in, but Brooke Wilmes, Grain Valley’s Kendyll Bailey and Hatti Moore all came up in the program, of which the seniors were the backbone of this year’s team.
“We gave it all we had, we’re beaten up a little bit,” Wert said after the game. “We left it all out on the field every single game. I think that’s what we want to just continue to see happening.”
Mizzou has been to an NCAA Regional every year since missing the tournament in 2006 under Ty Singleton. Anderson brought them back to a Super Regional in 2021 after their last Super Regional appearance in 2016.
For seniors in most women’s sports, an end to their collegiate career most likely means an end to their playing career in general. For softball, National Pro Fastpitch used to be the only American professional softball league, but that will disband in June as Women’s Professional Fastpitch begins its new league the same month.
Athletes Unlimited Softball will begin its third season in July; a traveling five-week league in which teams change weekly and one player can win MVP by collecting points with their play. Players can also play professional softball in Japan. But for the most part, former softball players immediately hit the coaching ranks once their college career is over.
Anderson sheds light on how these seniors and most female athletes have different adjustments to make once they leave school.
“Their collegiate experience ends in the blink of an eye. Their athletic experience ends in the blink of an eye. That’s sometimes one of the hardest things for these athletes to be able to adjust to,” Anderson said.
“All she’s [points to Wert] ever known her entire life is how to play softball and go to school. And then all of a sudden you take away a huge part of her life and now she’s gonna have to adjust in the real world without the sport that she loves and that’s what’s very very special about women’s athletic and sets us apart from a lot of our male counterparts because they can continue on and play the sport that they love as long as they want to.”
While the team is sad and disappointed, Anderson will be returning a lot of talent next season including pitching aces Laurin Krings and Lee’s Summit West’s Jordan Weber.
“She’s tough as nails,” Anderson said about Weber. “She is one that I will scream from the rooftops that you do not have to throw 68 [mph] to 72 to pitch at this level.”
“She has perfected the art of pitching.”
Anderson said it is rare to have a group of seniors and a team as in sync as this year’s team and their influence on the program will forever be remembered.
“This is their home. They’re always welcome back.”
“It’s always their team. Next year, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, that they wanna look at this program and that this is their home.”