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Relief pitcher gives strong outing in 13-inning win for the Tigers

Friday, March 12, 2010 | 11:16 p.m. CST; updated 1:46 p.m. CST, Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jeff Emens didn’t plan on pitching 4 1/3 innings when he came into the bottom of the ninth inning of the Missouri baseball team’s game against Xavier on Friday night at Taylor Stadium.

Missouri’s sophomore relief pitcher had never thrown more than 2 1/3 innings, but the Tigers and Musketeers were tied at six runs apiece after nine innings, and it stayed that way until the bottom of the 13th. Coach Tim Jamieson trusted Emens to get the job done.

“The biggest concern that we were going to get is if his pitch count continued,” Jamieson said. “How many more innings can we get out of him? That was the biggest concern. He was still throwing really well, and locating it. That’s usually the best indicator that you have.”

Even when Emens pitched his final inning, Jamieson never got anybody loose in the bullpen. Instead, he sent his hurler back to the mound with hopes that the offense could muster up a run before Xavier did.

In the top of the 13th, the Musketeers almost took the lead when it appeared that Emens was becoming fatigued. Xavier centerfielder John McCambridge walked and then stole second and third base. Emens was able to pitch out of the jam.

“He had some tough situations to pitch out of,” Jamieson said. “The way we were swinging the bats from about the middle of the game on, it didn’t feel like we were going to be able to score a run. It’s a lot of pressure that a pitcher has on him in that situation. You just feel like you’ve got to be perfect.”

Emens said it felt like a marathon, but his arm held up to get through the game.

“On a game like that, you can throw up three and a third (innings), it can make you feel like you’re throwing seventy games,” Emens said. “I didn’t really feel like I was wearing down, I felt good. This is the freshest my arm has felt in a while.”

Towards the end of the game, the rain picked up, but Emens said this played more into the pitcher’s hand.

“Not too bad,” Emens said. “They kept most of the balls dry. It’s not really the ideal hitting weather, so it works for me.”

In the bottom of the 13th inning, the Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out. Jamieson called on Andreas Plackis to pinch-hit for the struggling Dane Opel. Plackis delivered a sacrifice fly and third basemen Andrew Thigpen slid into home plate right under the catcher's tag to give Missouri the 7-6 victory.

“Thirteen innings, it’s a long game, especially in the rain,” Plackis said. “It’s good to end with a win.”

Missouri (6-5) started the game strong with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Xavier clawed back with five runs of their own in the top of the third before the game became tied at six in the top of the fifth inning.

Jamieson said even with the pressure of the situation, his heart didn’t start racing.

“It stopped beating about the sixth inning,” Jamieson said. “You get to that point in the game, it’s more relief than it is you’re excited about the victory.”

The Tigers play their second of a three-game set with Xavier at 2 p.m. Saturday at Taylor Stadium.

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