COLUMBIA — After giving up 27 hits and 17 runs in the first two games of its series against Kansas State and still finding a way to win, the Missouri baseball team gave up just two runs through eight innings of Sunday’s finale at Taylor Stadium and found a way to lose.
With two outs and runners on first and second in the top of the 10th inning, Missouri catcher Trevor Coleman successfully blocked a pitch in the dirt. But, as the ball bounced off him back into the field, both Kansas State runners attempted to advance, prompting Coleman to throw to second. His throw was too low, though, and as the baseball skipped into the outfield, the Wildcats’ lead runner walked home.
The Tigers could not score in the bottom of the inning and lost 4-3.
“There’s no reason to force that play,” said Missouri coach Tim Jamieson. “You’ve got two outs and you’ve got a guy at the (plate) that we can get out. So I don’t think it was the right throw to make, but even after he made it, all we’ve got to do is keep it in front and they don’t score a run.”
A much-needed series sweep of the Wildcats, who are eighth in the Big 12 Conference, was well within reach for Missouri, who had lost six of its past seven games. In the bottom of the eighth inning, first baseman Steve Gray sent an RBI double down the left field line to give the Tigers their first lead of the day, but a Kansas State sacrifice fly in the ninth sent the game into extra innings tied at 3.
“We really needed this (win) to try to get back into things,” said Gray, referring to his team’s conference standing. “The series win is good, it helps us get back on track, but it’s tough because we really felt like we should’ve swept them today and we let it get away.”
Jamieson found some consolation in his team’s improved play.
“I thought we did (play better),” he said. “I thought we played with more confidence. Rick (Zagone) pitched well today and Nick (Tepesch) pitched well today, but you’ve got to find ways to win this game at home. That’s the difference between the teams that are at the top of the league and the teams that are trying to get there.”
Count Missouri as a team trying to get there. With only six conference games left, the Tigers are now 11-10 in Big 12 play. The league’s fourth place team, Missouri can no longer win the Big 12 regular season title. The team has also tumbled down the national rankings recently, falling out of Baseball America’s top 10 for the first time this season.
“We’re going to figure this thing out, the end of the game,” said senior starter Zagone of the team’s recent struggles in the late innings. “We just need to work on finishing off teams, and we’ve got a bunch of great guys in the bullpen that’ll eventually get it done.”
Jamieson wasn’t confident that his team had taken a positive step toward figuring anything out.
“Everybody walking away right now recognizes that this is a game that we let get away. What effect will that have? Will they take that away from the weekend or will they take the fact that they played better baseball?” he asked rhetorically. “My guess is we broke even.”
Missouri (31-16) will host Creighton and Missouri State this week before traveling to Lawerence, Kan. next weekend to face Kansas.