Big plays help and haunt Missouri baseball team

Saturday, May 22, 2010 | 6:47 p.m. CDT; updated 9:35 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 22, 2010

COLUMBIA — In order to win the big games against the big teams, you have to make the big plays.

For the Missouri baseball team in its game against Texas on Saturday at Taylor Stadium, it was all about big catches and big non-catches.

In the top of the eighth inning with the score tied at 4 and Texas was threatening to take the lead, a ball was hit towards the gap off the bat of Texas first baseman Tant Shepherd. But Missouri freshman outfielder Dane Opel ran and made a perfect dive to make the catch and keep the game tied.

Had the ball dropped, it would have seemed typical for the way the season has gone for Missouri and Texas. Texas has got all the breaks, while Missouri has usually been a play short.

Missouri catcher Brett Nicholas said Opel’s catch was huge because of Missouri’s struggles this season.

“It’s very important because that’s kind of the thing that we’ve been lacking,” Nicholas said. “That extra hit to get us a run, or that one spectacular play that keeps one or two runs from scoring. That’s what that play was. It kept a couple runs from scoring. It kept us in the game.”

Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said Opel has been one of the team’s best clutch performers in Big 12 Conference play.

“He rises to the occasion in big games,” Jamieson said.

But the Tigers did not rally behind Opel’s catch and break the tie in the bottom of the inning. Instead, in the top of the ninth, a ball was hit to Missouri junior outfielder Jonah Schmidt. Schmidt had the ball in his glove, but it popped out allowing Texas to score two runs for 6-4 victory.

Opel said it’s crucial for Tigers to limit their mistakes against Texas (45-8, 23-3), which is ranked No. 1 in the country in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.

“Good teams are always going to take advantage of little mistakes,” Opel said. “That’s pretty much why they won today. They capitalize on things.”

While it was a frustrating loss, it was the second-straight game against Texas that Missouri has been close. The Tigers haven’t been able to pull off a victory, but with the Big 12 tournament starting on Wednesday in Oklahoma City, the Tigers’ confidence level is rising.

Opel said that though the Tiger's 27-24 (10-15 in the Big 12) record might not show it, and the big plays haven’t often gone their way, the Tigers have competed hard all season.

“We’ve been right there with everybody this year,” Opel said. “We’ve shown that. We hang right there. Two games in a row right with the number one team in the nation. It says a lot about everybody here. We’re willing to fight for everything.”

Missouri ends its regular season in the final game of the series against Texas at noon Sunday at Taylor Stadium.

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hoka hey May 23, 2010 | 7:38 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Ellis Smith May 23, 2010 | 8:59 a.m.

hoka hey's post reminds me of a situation several years ago, involving a televised Texas-Missouri football game and UMKC.

I had spent a week in Golden, Colorado (Colorado School of Mines) and was driving back to Columbia. After spending Friday night in Salina, Kansas I continued Saturday to Kansas City, where I decided to stop for lunch at Harpo's in Westport.

I arrived at Harpo's somewhat after 11 AM and ordered a beer and a sandwich with fries. As I was consuming my lunch, groups of young college-aged men and women came drifting in and took seats by the big screen TV. Many of the youngsters were wearing "UMKC" or "Kangaroo" logo sweatshirts or T-shirts.

The football game, played in Austin, Texas, began at noon. It was a slaughter (all Texas). The young TV watchers were rooting loudly for the Longhorns. [Note: Keep in mind that neither UMKC nor UMSL has a football team; only MU and MS&T play football.]

It is certainly possible that these youngsters weren't actually from UMKC. You can go into a bookstore, etc., and buy apparel without being a student. But somehow I think most of the crowd were UMKC students. MU isn't popular on the UMKC campus (and it isn't popular on our campus either).

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hoka hey May 23, 2010 | 9:31 a.m.
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Carl Kabler May 23, 2010 | 9:46 a.m.

Ellis, just to put things in perspective, never forget that beer you had with your sandwich could have been 'justification' for sending an army of 'coppers'(as they were called back then) in with Tommy guns, shooting up the place only some 80 plus years ago and hauling you away. While at the same time the kitchen help out back engaging in their 'reefer' would have been entirely a non-event.

Fortunately IMO, society saw fit to end the gangland slayings, and all of the death, crime and violence associated with alcohol prohibition and all of the black market activity that fed it. Yes, there are still problems with alcohol (over)consumption, I'm fully aware of that,but we generally no longer need to send in agents armed to the teeth to try and combat it. Society has TRIED to move out of the dark ages and bring the problem to the forefront where it can be handled to prevent DRUNKEN behavior, rather than just use in most cases.

But now the war has simply switched 'victims'. Behavior that was fully legal in many of our parents and grandparents times has now taken the place of the war on alcohol, and the violence and bloodshed has from what I see, far from being diminished, actually GREATLY escalated.

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Ellis Smith May 23, 2010 | 11:30 a.m.

hoka hey's post has apparently been removed*. I am not sure how my post, above, fits in with controlled substances or law enforcement. The only "mayhem" that Saturday afternoon was taking place on TV, and Missouri was getting by far the worst of it. After the first two Texas scores I left Harpo's and continued my drive to Columbia. Those who remained, and the place was nearly full, were obviously ecstatic. It's nice to see college-aged youngsters engaging in good clean fun.

*- Hardly surprising, considering its content. But it's useful now and then to see where the line is being drawn by Missourian management.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock May 23, 2010 | 11:31 p.m.


The comment was removed because the person posting was not using his/her real name, which is a requirement of this site. If you're truly interesting in seeing where we "draw the line," it's all spelled out here:

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

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