COLUMBIA — The last time we saw the Missouri Tigers, they had just finished demolishing a very good Baylor team, were on their way to the No. 2 ranking in the country, and were playing nearly as well as any club has in program history. The pitchers were carving up all comers, the defense was the Big 12 Conference’s best, and they were hitting enough to win.
Then they left, and lost to Minnesota. And then to Texas Tech. Twice.
Baseball, however, is a different game. A game where even the worst teams can beat the best once in a while.
Tuesday night at Taylor Stadium, Missouri showed just how poorly you have to play for that to happen.
In what might rank as the most improbable upset of the college baseball season thus far, Missouri booted, bobbled, and blundered its way to a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Western Illinois Leathernecks, a team that, prior to last weekend, had one win all season.
“We were arrogant tonight,” Tigers coach Tim Jamieson said. “We didn’t respect our opponent, we didn’t respect the game, and we didn’t come ready to play.
“We finally dialed it in a little bit from the middle of the game on, but by that time we’d made too many mistakes to come back.”
Not that they didn’t try. Missouri (20-6) loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but fell short when Dan Pietroburgo flied to left to end the game.
It was the defense, however, that was truly uncharacteristic.
Starting a lineup that featured similar faces in different places, the changes cost Jamieson. Senior co-captain Jacob Priday, playing right field instead of his normal designated hitter spot, had two errors, and normal left fielder Aaron Senne had one error in his first start at first base. The errors alone, however, don’t speak to the numerous mistakes made in the field.
“Obviously we didn’t have our heads on straight there the first couple innings with the errors and the misplays,” Priday said, mentioning his own difficulties.
Though Priday and losing pitcher Greg Folgia both said that all the national attention and high rankings didn’t affect the team, and had nothing to do with its recent losing streak - which is now at three games, and four out of five - the Tigers shouldn’t have to worry about losing because of arrogance again any time soon.
“It’s a lesson hard-learned,” Jamieson said, “but hopefully, 26 games into the season you’ve already figured out you’ve got to be ready to play no matter who your opponent is.