Missouri baseball team failed to overcome first inning errors

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | 8:31 p.m. CDT; updated 10:49 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Myles Smith pitches to Central Arkansas on Wednesday at Taylor Stadium. Smith pitched three innings of relief for the Tigers.

COLUMBIA — It wasn't so much the beginning of the game that bothered Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson, though no one would have blamed him if it had.

The team committed two errors in the first inning of its game against Central Arkansas — one on the first pitch of the game.  Central Arkansas scored three unearned runs.

But Jamieson didn't say anything when the players returned to the dugout. The inning was over. They could move on.

Except they didn't.

The Tigers struggled to get anything started at the plate, and as the innings passed, the tension built. This is Central Arkansas, they thought. This shouldn't be that hard.

No, it wasn't the first inning that bothered Jamieson in Missouri's 9-3 loss Wednesday at Taylor Stadium. It was everything that came after.

"Some strange things happened in that first inning, but that's baseball sometimes," he said. "We've got to respond, and we tried to do too much." 

Missouri (11-11) pulled within two runs in the fifth inning but then gave up another five runs in the seventh, capping the type of day the Tigers didn't want entering Big 12 Conference play against No. 8 Oklahoma on Friday.

The players said after the game they were already over the loss and ready for the Sooners. They were just unable to get over that first inning when the game was still in progress.

"It took us too long to get back into the game, and you can't do that," center fielder Brannon Champagne said. "If you have a bad inning, especially in the first, you got to bounce back and not let it affect us. We have 27 outs to make up the runs."

After beating Central Arkansas 11-4 on Tuesday, designated hitter Jonah Schmidt said the team expected to score at least 10 runs again. But by the time the fourth inning ended, the Tigers still hadn't scored a run and the pressure had built.

"It's always frustrating when you come out and don't play as well as you'd like to, especially against an opponent that we proved last night we're a lot better than," Schmidt said. "We kind of laid an egg in the first inning, and after that guys got tense trying to force stuff. We need to relax, have faith and know that it's going to happen."

The fact that there even was growing tension after the first inning worried Jamieson. In dealing with a fairly inexperienced team, he has preached letting go of the past and focusing on the task at hand all season. 

"You can't let that happen," he said. "Sometimes it's easier said than done. That's the nature of the game sometimes, and guys who don't let it go are the ones who struggle."

Jamieson said the loss felt worse than what it was because it brought the team's record back to .500. Missouri's goal against lesser opponents the past few weeks has been to secure a winning record entering conference play.

The Tigers did a good job of that, winning six straight games the past two weeks after falling to 4-9. But every loss has felt like another weight on top of the team.

Nonetheless, Jamieson expects the Missouri team he saw on Tuesday to show up against Oklahoma this weekend.

"Today was not a good example of how we've been playing the last couple of weeks," Jamieson said. "(This weekend) you've got a situation where the focus is a little sharper. It feels more like a situation (in which) you're going to play better baseball."

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