The projected success for the Missouri baseball team has waxed and waned over the years, but the projections were as high as ever this season when Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said joining college baseball’s final eight teams for the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., was “almost an expectation.”
Sunday’s 9-6 loss to Mississippi in NCAA regional play in Coral Gable, Fla., ended that expectation. The Tigers have been invited to six consecutive tournaments but have advanced past the regional round just once.
For the second straight game, reliever Kyle Gibson surrendered the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gibson, who has been the losing pitcher in the past three games he appeared in, gave up a hit on the first pitch of the inning then walked back-to-back batters with one out before allowing a grand slam to the Rebels’ left fielder Logan Power.
The Tigers had regained the lead in the top half of the inning, scoring two runs off Ole Miss closer Scott Bittle. Bittle (7-1), who struck out 12 of the 13 batters he retired in the game, gave up RBI-singles to Dan Pietroburgo and Steve Gray.
“This is a difficult way to end the year, a difficult way to end the season,” said Jamieson in a release. “The last two games we really had a chance to win. To get over the hump and be able to play next week and beyond, we need to be able to beat the teams at this level, but I am happy with the effort that we made.”
The Tigers did not get a hit off Ole Miss starter Brett Bukvich until the fifth inning. Bukvick recorded just one out in the inning, and Missouri scored four runs in the inning.
However, Missouri starter Ian Berger gave the lead away in the bottom of the inning when the Rebels scored four runs.
“Time after time we could have had our way,” Jamieson said. “But it is pretty obvious that they didn’t want to walk off the field with their season ended either, and that’s the mark of a great program. They outplayed us today.”
Missouri was playing for the right to face No. 1 national seed Miami in the regional final, where it would have had to beat the Hurricanes twice to advance.
The Tigers were ranked nationally all season and reached as high as No. 2 in Baseball America’s Top 25 poll after sweeping Baylor in March. It was the highest ranking for the program.
After struggling through the middle of the Big 12 Conference schedule, Missouri fell out of the top 10 for several weeks but was still considered a contender for the national championship.
The Tigers, currently ranked as high as No. 12, were surprised to be placed in the same regional as Miami and Ole Miss, which was a preseason top-10 team.
“It’s been a fun year. Every year we come around with a new set of guys and this year was no different,” said senior Jacob Priday in a release after his final collegiate game. “We didn’t perform like we wanted to, but we played well. It’s a great group of guys, and they are going to be great next year.”
Priday was 1-for-4 on Sunday and will now wait to see if he is chosen in the upcoming MLB draft along with teammate Aaron Crow, who is expected to be picked early in the first round.