COLUMBIA — Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson learned a valuable lesson on Saturday afternoon: Don’t pinch-hit for Dane Opel.
Opel, a freshman outfielder, was in a 0-for-12 slump when he came up for his first at-bat of the day in the bottom of the eighth inning of the Tigers' game against Xavier on Saturday at Taylor Stadium.
With the game tied at 2, the Tigers had the bases loaded with two outs. Opel had been brought into the game for his defense in the top half of the frame. Opel fought out of a two-strike count and lined a single up the middle to score two runs.
With one swing, Missouri claimed a 4-2 lead, which held up for a victory, and Opel’s slump was over.
“I was looking for something in the zone because that kid’s been throwing stuff in all different kinds of counts,” Opel said. “I was just trying to get something out over the plate. Luckily, I was ready for it.”
The past few games have been tough for Opel, but he was taking better swings in Friday’s game when he went 0-for-5.
“I’ve been hitting balls, but they’ve been caught or I’ve just been rolling over,” Opel said. “It’s just a couple of mechanical things that I’ve just been trying to work on.”
In the Tiger’s 13-inning game the night before, Opel was due up with the bases loaded and one out. Jamieson decided to pinch-hit Andreas Plackis for the struggling outfielder. Plackis delivered a sacrifice fly to win the game, but Jamieson admitted that he probably won’t pinch-hit for Opel again.
“It’s tough to be pinch-hit for,” Jamieson said. “Particularly in a game-winning situation. He was disappointed, and that was a great response. That’s what you do. You get your chance and you come through. It’s kind of like saying that, ‘OK, next time you’re not going to pinch-hit for me.’ And he’s right.”
Opel said he feels no animosity towards his coach, and feels like Jamieson made the right decision in both instances.
“I mean, I was disappointed, but coach J (Jamieson) made the right call,” Opel said. “He made the right call again today, so it’s got to say something for him.”
Brett Nicholas, who has been the Tigers’ hottest hitter, walked to load the bases for Opel. Nicholas said he had confidence that his teammate would come through.
“I’ve been swinging the bat well the last few days,” Nicholas said. “It’s just kind of expected that with a base open, even though it was a third base, they were going to not give me anything too good. And luckily, get that ball four. And then Dane comes in and does exactly what he’s supposed to.”
Missouri (7-5) starter Nick Tepesch was lifted after the first inning when he was struck in the right forearm by a line drive. Tepesch said he is sore, but the injury is not likely serious.
Pitcher Kelly Fick gave Missouri a strong performance with 5 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Tepesch.
The Tigers have won three games in a row, and will play Xavier in the series’ final game at 12 p.m. on Sunday at Taylor Stadium.