COLUMBIA — Missouri right fielder Aaron Senne slowly walked to the plate with the barrel of the bat in his left hand with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning on Wednesday night. His face was filled with tension.
When Minnesota coach John Anderson walked to the mound to talk with relief pitcher Allen Bechstein, Senne just stood in the batter's box staring at home plate.
For the first time in his life, Senne is in a hitting slump. Senne steps out of the batter's box and adjusts his helmet and tightens his batting gloves. With the bases loaded, he can start to turn around his season.
"I take a couple of deep breathes and try to relax. If anything it gets a little under the pitcher's skin." Senne said. "I want to show them why I rejected (Minnesota) and stick it to them."
Senne hit a line-drive over the shortstop's head for a two RBI single to bring the Tigers within three runs. That's as close as they got.
Justin Gominksy and Kyle Knudson each hit a three-run home run to lead Minnesota over Missouri 7-3 on Tuesday night at Taylor Stadium. Starting pitcher Ian Berger gave up six runs on nine hits in five innings to take the loss.
Senne went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs against Minnesota (17-9).
When asked why the team continued to struggle to drive in runners who reached base, Senne looked as confused as anyone on the Tigers (15-17).
"That's the question we'd all like to answer," he said.
Senne is struggling this year hitting after hitting .347 last season with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs. He hasn't hit a home run and is hitting .288. On Saturday, Missouri coach Tim Jamieson dropped him to seventh in the lineup for the first time in his career. He has been starting in the outfield since his first game for the Tigers three years ago.
"Going through a slump is new for him," said his father Jim Senne, who drove back to Minnesota on Monday to go to the Minnesota Twins home opener before driving back to Missouri watch his son face the Golden Gophers on Tuesday.
Aaron Senne has started in the outfield for Missouri since arriving from Rochester, Minn. He declined to turn pro after the Twins drafted him in the 13th round after high school.
Jim Senne said that before the season, Aaron Senne made some adjustments in his swing which has led to his season-long slump. Aaron Senne is talking to a personal hitting coach in Minnesota to figure out what's going on, and Jim Senne has seen signs of the slump lifting especially after his two-out two RBI single earlier with the bases loaded.
"If anything, I'm trying to put less pressure on myself," Aaron Senne said. "I was putting too much pressure on myself at the beginning."
Senne has thrown out six runners from right field this season. When he throws the ball, it looks like the ball is connected by a line to whatever base he is throwing to. Players have stopped trying to stretch singles into doubles when Senne fields the ball.
Off the field, Aaron Senne is quiet and goes about his business without disrupting others. With three older brothers, he grew up listening to what his brothers had to say.
"He's a quiet leader," Jim Senne said.
Minnesota is the perfect team for Aaron Senne to break out of his slump against. Last year, playing in the MetroDome, Aaron Senne went 4-for-5 with two home runs and eight RBIs. It was a homecoming party for the former Minnesota State Player of the Year.
"Tonight was the best night I've seen from him this season," Jamieson said. "He didn't chase pitches out of the zone and got something good to hit."
Aaron Senne wants nothing more to break out of his slump and lead the Tigers out of their season-long hitting slump that has them below .500 and looking at missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years. If he can do it against his childhood favorite team, even better.
"It'd be nice to help us win," Aaron Senne said.