It's the background noise of softball, from kiddie leagues to the NCAA's finest.


It's the background noise of softball, from kiddie leagues to the NCAA's finest.

Group cheers and chants, syncopated and coordinated, dominate a dugout din that can last an entire game. Only not at Missouri, where coach Ehren Earleywine — a baseball convert — tells his players to save their breath.

"Teams are so caught up trying to choreograph these cheers that they're not paying attention to the things that matter," he said. "There's a lot you can learn from just watching the game."

That all-business attitude has Missouri (49-11) just two home wins from its second straight appearance in the women's College World Series, with Earleywine in charge of arguably Missouri's most successful sports program, including Gary Pinkel's football Tigers and Mike Anderson's men's basketball team.

The No. 9 seed Tigers host Oregon (36-19) in a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional series on Saturday and Sunday. Missouri advanced to its third consecutive round of 16 with a win over Creighton and two victories over Illinois last weekend.

The series with the Ducks marks the program's first time hosting a Super Regional. Last year, Missouri upset No. 2 seed UCLA on the road to earn its first trip to Oklahoma City in 15 years.

Earleywine, a Missouri native who returned home in 2006 after coaching Georgia Tech, is a former Westminster College baseball player and fast-pitch softball national team captain.

While wary of dampening his new team's enthusiasm, he quickly decided to stop the Tigers' orchestrated team cheers. In his mind, it improves players' concentration and minimizes fatigue.

"The coaches I grew up playing for were always very adamant that when you're on the bench and not out on the field, you need to be paying attention," he said. "Whether you chant my name or a cute little riddle is not going to help me get a hit.

"It's just fatiguing. By end of the weekend your voice is gone and you're tired."

Junior outfielder Rhea Taylor, who leads Missouri with a .455 batting average, said the no-chants policy required a collective attitude adjustment.

"We've been doing this for years, from 5-years-old up through high school and travel ball," she said. "This is what we do. We love the game so much, we have to cheer for our teammates, even if they are choreographed."

Earleywine's edict aside, plenty of competitive college teams continue to embrace the staccato, handclap-driven dugout chants.

"It goes back to the have-your-back mentality," said Georgia coach Lu Harris-Champer, whose Bulldogs host California in an NCAA Super Regional this weekend.

"If they've been doing it for 15 years, I'm not going to tell them to stop," she added. "Whatever it is that keeps them in the game, I'm happy with."

After Missouri lost No. 1 pitcher Chelsea Thomas to a stress fracture of her right wrist early this season, few outsiders pegged the team for a return WCWS trip. But led by Taylor, freshman shortstop Jenna Marston and newly crowned ace Kristen Nottelmann, Missouri rallied for its fourth consecutive NCAA appearance and fifth in six years.

"We didn't know who we were for awhile after we lost our ace," Earleywine said. "It took us about five to 10 games and we began to come together and figure out how we could win without Chelsea. Today, we're a team that knows who we are."

Marston, who played on her St. Louis high school's baseball team along with softball, is one Tiger who doesn't mind the lack of off-field wordplay.

"I actually always found it pretty annoying. I'm glad we don't do it," she said.

As for teams that continue to cheer en masse?

"It makes me want to shut them up, go out there and score a bunch of runs and make them be quiet," Marston said.