The Tigers saved themselves from a sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners by taking the Sunday game, 5-4 at a cold, rainy Taylor Stadium.
Missouri's bats finally showed a sign of life in Big XII play, as they went off for 5 runs in the bottom of the 2nd, and never trailed after that.
The five run 2nd inning was aided by a Sooner error, which led to 4 unearned runs. Michael Liberto hit what seemed to be a routine double play ball to shortstop, but Bryant Hernandez bobbled it, and everyone was safe. The Tigers immediately capitalized. Ryan Lollis, Aaron Senne, and Greg Folgia, the heart of the Mizzou order, combined for 4 RBI after the Sooner error.
The Sooners would not go away quietly, though. The #10 team in the nation kept chipping away at Mizzou's 5 run lead, though. Oklahoma scored one run in both the 3rd and 5th and two runs in the 7th to make it 5-4. That's when the Mizzou bullpen came in and shut the door, preventing the Sooners from completing the comeback. Tyler Clark registered the final out of the 7th with two men on base by striking out the Sooners' 3rd hitter, Hernandez.
Clark, Phil McCormick, and Brad Buehler combined to close out the game, only allowing 1 hit in the final 2 innings while preserving the one run lead. The game ended on a Jamie Johnson lineout to second that turned into a double play when Matt Harughty was caught running towards 3rd prematurely.
Nick Tepesch, Mizzou's starter on Sunday, performed well enough for a victory, his 2nd of the season. In 6+ innings of work, Tepesch gave up 4 runs on 6 hits, with 3 walks and 9 strikeouts in exactly 100 pitches. Coach Tim Jamieson pulled the sophomore hurler after he gave up a homerun and a double to start off the 7th inning.
"That's pretty much who he's been all year. We've got to figure out some way to keep his mistakes in the ballpark," Jamieson said. "Outside of those mistakes, he's really had a pretty solid year."
Although the Missouri bats did come alive in the 2nd inning, there were more opportunities to stretch the lead out that the Tigers did not take advantage of. Liberto could have scored a run in the 1st inning on a Folgia if he didn't get caught in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd. Also, in the 8th, a failed bunt attempt by Rex Meyr spoiled any chance of tacking on an insurance run.
"We still had some bonehead plays," Jamieson said. We still did some things wrong that gave them a chance to get back in the game. Fortunately we were good enough on the mound to get a W.
After the game, the Tigers said that the cold, dreary weather was actually to their advantage.
It's definitely in our advantage because we play [in weather] like this in the fall, and we have guys from down south like OU wearing their big jackets and everything, so it's kind of fun for us," Connor Mach said.
"I'm sure, with the loss, they're a lot colder than we are right now," Tepesch said.
The win saves the Tigers from getting swept, something the team desperately wanted to avoid.
"It's big, because you're looking at 4-8 vs. 5-7 in the league. 4-8 is a pretty big gap to try and catch up just to .500. 5-7, you have one good weekend, you might be above .500…We've got to stay where we can finish in the top half, if not the top 4," Jamieson said.
The Tigers will stay in Columbia for a two game series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, starting on Tuesday at 6:30 PM. The Wednesday game is in the afternoon, at 2 PM. Mizzou will look to get above the .500 mark with a 2-game sweep of the Gophers, something that has been eluding them for almost the whole season.