Kansas takes series from Missouri baseball team

Sunday, April 17, 2011 | 6:26 p.m. CDT; updated 8:48 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 17, 2011
Missouri sophomore Dane Opel reacts to being picked off at first base by Kansas pitcher Alex Cox in the sixth inning of Sunday's game at Taylor Stadium.

COLUMBIA — If the Missouri baseball players believe in one another as much as they say they do, the second inning against Kansas on Sunday provided evidence that faith isn't always rewarded.

The bases were loaded with one out. Jesse Santo crouched steps away from first base. Ben Turner stood by second base. Dane Opel led off third base. They were ready to advance and score. They expected to.

And then, like so many other times this season, they were walking back to the dugout. Eric Anderson hit a grounder to the second baseman. He flicked it to the shortstop covering second base, who tossed it to first base to complete the double play.

Missouri lost 6-0 to Kansas, losing a three-game series to the Jayhawks in Columbia for the first time since 1983. The Tigers were held scoreless despite the eight hits and five free bases from beaned batters..

The loss seemed especially disheartening after Missouri had snapped a nine-game losing streak on Saturday. The momentum from Blake Brown's clutch walk-off single less than 24 hours before came to a standstill.

Even Turner, who expects one of those hits every time he stands on base, couldn't deny the disappointment Sunday when Missouri (14-22, 2-9 Big 12 conference) stranded 12 runners and did not take advantage of ample opportunities.

"It sucks," he said.

Turner, who finished 3-for-3, and Santo, who reached base in all three of his at-bats, bore the brunt of such disappointment. Yet, they haven't come to expect it.

"We trust everybody on this team that they'll drive us in," Turner said. "Nobody is thinking someone's not going to drive us in. We have confidence in the next guy, and the guy after that." 

Santo agreed: "If I get on base, I have confidence that the next guy will be drove in. We feel comfortable that we're going to have more guys on base. We're just waiting around for that big hit."

When looking at them stand on the base, it's hard not to think of Santo or Turner as the last kid patiently waiting on the curb hours after parent pickup at school.

But Missouri's batters don't share the same confidence. Coach Tim Jamieson explained how every time one player doesn't drive home a run, the next guy up carries a bigger burden. They are afraid to fail. It's almost like batting with an 0-2 count.

Jamieson said Missouri is walking into the batter's box with the wrong thoughts. But he understands.

"It hasn't been just a few games, it's been the whole season," he said. "I don't think we've hit an extra-base hit with the bases loaded the entire year. You'd think that just with the law of averages we'd catch up, but it's not going to happen until we switch our thought process."

Turner and Santo aren't the only ones getting on base. Different guys have hit every day. Santo said the players all feel like they're "right there." But the big hit is the elusive hit.

The Tigers haven't scored more than four runs in any of their 11 conference games, and, according to Jamieson, Missouri hadn't led a game in two weeks until Brown's walk-off hit on Saturday.

"We have to try to have it happen more times than not," Santo said. "We know it's not going to happen every time. But we have to get more done for the pitching staff than we have been."

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