OKLAHOMA CITY — Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said he wasn’t afraid to put closer Brad Buehler on the mound again on Saturday in the Big 12 baseball tournament despite Buehler's recent struggles.
“At this stage of the year, you can tell him how good he is and he’s only going to believe in himself if he’s getting it done,” Jamieson said on Friday.
Big 12 Conference tournament title game
vs. Texas (40-13-1)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City
TV: Fox Sports Midwest
So Jamieson threw Buehler into the fire Saturday against Oklahoma and Buehler got the Big 12 Player of the Year to hit into a game-ending double play that clinched a 5-4 Tigers victory at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
Missouri finished 2-1 in pool play and thanks to Texas A&M's 11-4 win over Texas Tech late Saturday night, the Tigers will play the Texas Longhorns at 1 p.m. Sunday in the tournament championship. The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Midwest.
In the eighth and ninth inning, Missouri turned double plays to escape jams. Buehler entered the game with one out in the ninth inning with the tying run at third base and the go-ahead run at first. Jamieson brought him into face Oklahoma’s J.T. Wise.
Wise hit a sharp ground ball up the middle but shortstop Michael Liberto was there to grab the ball, step on second for the first out and throw to first to end the game.
“(Coach J shows a lot of trust in me which I love,” Buehler said in a radio interview. “He doesn’t really like curve balls so I tried to throw him two of those. But I didn’t get them over for strikes, so I threw him a 2-0 fastball, and he got on top of it and hit it to Mike.”
Earlier in the game, Liberto made a mistake by throwing home when the runner at third base wasn’t running towards home. The throw bounced off catcher Ryan Ampleman’s pads towards the pitching mound. Ampleman went to chase the ball and no one was covering home so the runner scored.
“Coach told me it’s the 55th game of the season and we can’t be making mistakes like that,” Liberto said.
Reliever Phil McCormick entered the game in the eighth inning with runners on first and second and one out. McCormick gave up a single but then got a double play to end the inning and the Sooners' threat and keep the one-run lead.
“I’ve been doing it all year,” McCormick said. “Coach J has promised me a situation where I can come into a game this year without runners on base. I’m still waiting for that.”
Earlier this season, Missouri coach Tim Jamieson would get so angry about his team making small but costly mistakes that it became a cliché. Missouri had already lost one game to Oklahoma this season on miscues, on Saturday, Oklahoma made the mistakes.
First baseman Steve Gray, who has struck out a team-leading 64 times this year, earned an RBI on two occasions by hitting the ball to the right side of the infield instead of striking out.
“I think we’re making good decisions, we’re making the timely plays and have timely hitting, and that’s how you win baseball games,” Jamieson said. “If you only get four hits, you have to be opportunistic when those are put together.”
Missouri starting pitcher Nick Tepesch pitched seven innings allowing eight hits but allowed only two earned runs while striking out six Sooners.
“(Pitching) coach Tony (Vitello) always stresses to take one inning at a time, and that’s just what I went out thinking in the first inning — to get that one under my belt and just go from there.”
Missouri is 12-3 in its past 15 games against Big 12 teams and hoping for a chance to host a regional. The NCAA selection committee chose the hosts for the 16 regional sites on Saturday evening and will release them Sunday afternoon, so if Missouri plays in the title game, it won’t affect whether the Tigers host a regional.
“I think three Big 12 teams are deserving of it, and we come behind Texas and Oklahoma,” Jamieson said. “We finished third in the conference, and it’s about how we’re playing now and our capability of winning a regional. I would think that we’re at least in the discussion.”