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Missouri baseball players don't let go of losses after leaving Taylor Stadium

Friday, April 15, 2011 | 10:31 p.m. CDT; updated 10:54 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 15, 2011
MU freshman starting pitcher Rob Zastryzny pitched the first 5.1 innings against the University of Kansas on Friday at Taylor Stadium. KU beat MU with a score of 8-3.

COLUMBIA - When Rob Zastryzny leaves Taylor Stadium, he doesn't leave baseball behind. Especially not after he has pitched.

Zastryzny and his roommate, infielder Dillon Everett, go back to their dorm room at Center Hall. The freshmen get dinner and critique each other's performances, even if one didn't play.

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"He tells me what I did wrong and what I did right on the mound, and I tell him what he did wrong and right at the plate or in the dugout," Zastryzny said.

Zastryzny has been Missouri's most consistent pitcher this season, but he gave up seven hits and five earned runs in an 8-3 series-opening loss to Kansas on Friday. 

For at least one more night, the post-game talk will be somber. The Tigers (13-21, 1-8) have now lost nine straight games, tying the longest losing streak in the program's history.

During such a slump it is hard to find a balance between losing focus and obsessing over the losses. Coach Tim Jamieson knows how hard it is to simply forget about a game once you've went home, and he said he admires what Zastryzny and Everett are doing.

"That's probably why Rob has had a good year," he said. "All the guys need to do that because there are different ways to learn. One of them is by experiencing it, and another way is by watching it and talking about it. It's a great way to learn."

The reflection must be constructive, though. Otherwise, Jamieson said, self-doubt can wear on players, and they wake up the next morning feeling worse because of the discussion.

Zastryzny has avoided this. He and Everett like to talk about the game for about an hour after its conclusion. Then they move on, either gathering with the other freshman baseball players in Center to watch a movie or going to sleep.

"After that, it's gone," Zastryzny said. "I just don't think about it anymore."

It's not so easy for designated hitter Jonah Schmidt. The senior wakes up the morning after losses and heads back to the indoor practice center at the ballpark. He gets an early hitting session in before getting breakfast and talking to his brother or dad, both "baseball guys" who understand the nagging thoughts that accompany a slump.

"You're definitely going to go over it, especially after one against KU," Schmidt said. "It should hurt a little bit. It sinks in, and with time you wake up in the morning and get a fresh start."

Jamieson said it takes maturity for the players to leave games behind. He's not able to. Not even when Missouri is winning. He goes home and can't shut his mind off. There has to be a way to get better. There has to be a way to snap out of this.

But what is it? He said he's tried yelling, tried patting them on the back, tried kicking them in the butt. He sees how with every loss, the hill becomes that much steeper. The hole gets that much deeper.

"It's frustrating, it's difficult to deal with," he said. "Above all else I want my guys to compete, I want them to play hard and I want them to fight for each other. At times this year, we haven't done that. And that's disappointing."

Even for Zastryzny, mature beyond his age, coping has become harder. After the loss to Kansas he berated himself for pitching like a freshman instead of a leader in a game he considered an opportunity to turn the season around.

"The team morale is down a little bit," he said. "It's hard to get your mind off of the losses. And the more times we lose, the harder it gets.

"We're probably going to have a long talk after this one."


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