Catcher's intangibles key in doubleheader sweep for Missouri baseball

Sunday, April 25, 2010 | 8:48 p.m. CDT; updated 9:11 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 25, 2010
Missouri junior catcher Ryan Ampleman heads toward the Missouri dugout Sunday after an inning of play against Kansas State.

COLUMBIA — When Missouri pitcher Nick Tepesch struck out Kansas State infielder Matt Giller, catcher Ryan Ampleman showed everyone how competitive he is.

Since the pitch was in the dirt, meaning Giller could still advance to first base, Ampleman picked it up quickly and lunged into the much-bigger Giller to tag him out, pushing him back a step in the process.

Ampleman wasn’t trying to send a message. He was just happy to play.

While the rest of the Missouri baseball team had to wait two days to start Game 1 of the series, because Friday and Saturday's game were rescheduled, Ampleman hadn't started since April 10.

Ampleman caught both games of the doubleheader with Kansas State on Sunday at Taylor Stadium and said he felt no fatigue.

“I had plenty of rest,” Ampleman said. “It really wasn’t hard. The momentum in the dugout and the feeling was totally different.”

Missouri’s catcher came into the season expecting to be the every day man behind the plate. His defense was excellent early in the season, but his hitting wasn't. Ampleman is hitting .120 more than halfway through the season.

Ampleman said his ability to call good games behind the plate was starting to hinder because he was thinking too much about his hitting woes.

“It was in my head,” Ampleman said. “To be honest with you, you have to go back to like second grade. You don’t think, just go out and play and have fun.”

In Game 1, Ampleman and Tepesch put together one of Missouri’s best starts of the year. Tepesch pitched into the eighth inning, despite not having great control because of the rainy weather.

The tandem held Kansas State to one run, and Missouri won 4-2.

Tepesch said he has great confidence in his catcher.

“It’s really important,” Tepesch said. “I trust Amp with whatever he puts down. I see he puts down fastball, I’m throwing a fastball. If he throws down a curveball, I’m throwing a curveball. I have faith in Amp to put down what he feels is the best pitch. I just go after it.”

After the first game, Ampleman was not ready for his day to be over. Although it is not ideal for a catcher to catch both games of a doubleheader, Ampleman asked coach Jamieson, and Jamieson agreed.

It wasn’t just Ampleman’s great pitch calling that led to Jamieson’s decision, though.

“I think what we’ve been missing by not having him out there is there’s a lot of intangibles,” Jamieson said. “There’s a lot of positive that happens that you don’t see in the scorebook. We kind of feed off of his competitiveness at times.”

Jamieson was not disappointed with his decision.

Ampleman called another great game despite Kansas State’s offense waking up. And with the Tigers down 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Ampleman delivered a successful bunt to squeeze home the tying run, showing off some of the intangibles that his coach described.

Missouri would win the game 9-8 in 10 innings. It was the first Big 12 Conference series win of the season for Missouri (21-17, 6-8 Big 12).

The Tigers play Eastern Illinois at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon.

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