Thirteen batters up and 13 batters down.
That’s how pitcher Nick Tepesch started the Missouri baseball team's game against Nebraska on Friday night at Taylor Stadium.
The thought of a potential perfect game or a no-hitter likely started to creep into the heads of fans and players in attendance, but no one said a word because of the fear that they might jinx Tepesch.
Baseball is a game of superstition.
Former Missouri wrestler Max Askren was one of those fans watching the game. Askren won the national title in the 184-pound weight class in March and was there to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Askren admitted to not knowing a lot about the traditions of baseball and when asked if he knew what Tepesch was doing, he gave his honest answer.
“I don’t know,” Askren said. “What’s he doing?”
Coach Tim Jamieson, a believer in the tradition of keeping your mouth shut and your mind occupied in these situations, was satisfied with Askren’s answer.
“That’s the right attitude,” Jamieson said with a chuckle.
Tepesch’s bid to throw a no-hitter or perfect game ended in the fifth inning when he gave up three hits to load the bases. However, Tepesch escaped the jam and cruised to a five-hit complete game shutout to lead the Tigers to a 2-0 victory in what Jamieson called Tepesch’s best start of his career.
Catcher Brett Nicholas admitted that he was getting butterflies in his stomach when he thought of the possibility of a no-hitter.
“I’m one of the most superstitious guys there is,” Nicholas said. “You could almost say I’ve got OCD with some of this stuff. If something like that gets turned off a little bit or somebody says something, you try not to think about it, but it’s always kind of right there in the back of the head.”
Baseball is a slow-moving sport. The players have more time to think, especially in between innings. In sports like wrestling, the pace is very fast. You don’t have time to think, or you will be flat on your back.
Tepesch, unlike his coach and catcher, said he is not very superstitious. He said he didn’t hear any of his teammates talking about the possibility of a no-hitter, but doesn’t believe it would’ve jinxed him had he heard anything.
“I feel good most of the time when I go out there,” Tepesch said. “Just executing pitches and I definitely executed pitches a lot better tonight than I have in the past.”
Tepesch, along with the rest of the Tigers have their minds set on making the Big 12 tournament, but if the season ended today, they probably wouldn’t make the cut. Each game is a must-win game for the Tigers at this point of the season.
In order to get into the tournament, leaders like Tepesch have to step up.
“We are kind of in that spot,” Tepesch said. “We have to play every game like it’s our last. I felt like we did a good job all night as a team.”
Missouri (25-22, 8-13 Big 12) plays Nebraska (23-25, 7-15 Big 12) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Taylor Stadium.