COLUMBIA — The game was taken out of the Missouri baseball team's hands on Sunday.
Up until the past two weeks, the Tigers probably wouldn't have minded. They weren't doing much good with their own hands.
But as the rain halted the final game against No. 6 Texas A&M after seven innings with the Aggies leading 3-2, the Missouri players stood around in the dugout hoping the projections for more rain were wrong.
"The mood in the dugout was that if we finish, we all know we're winning that game," designated hitter Jonah Schmidt said. "It's maybe not the way we've thought in the past."
The rain persisted past the half-hour delay, and Texas A&M left with the victory. Missouri, though, chose to focus on how it has taken its fate into its own hands by winning the series and how it has an opportunity to change that fate in the final three weeks of the regular season.
The Tigers' remaining Big 12 Conference opponents — Kansas State, Texas Tech and Nebraska — all have losing records in the conference. Missouri (19-25, 6-11 Big 12) must travel to play Kansas State and Nebraska (as well as nonconference foe Missouri State on Tuesday), but consecutive series wins against Baylor and Texas A&M has given the Tigers confidence they did not previously have.
"The reason we've been down on ourselves is that we knew we were better than what we were showing," pitcher Rob Zastryzny said. "Now we're showing shades of what we can actually do, and it's really exciting to watch."
Missouri is still tied with Nebraska for last place in the conference, but four other opponents are within two games, so if the Tigers can continue to take two of three games in the series they play, they can qualify for the eight-team conference tournament starting May 25 in Oklahoma City.
When coach Tim Jamieson met with Texas A&M coach Rob Childress to call the game on Sunday, Childress complimented Missouri on how it had played.
"I said I just hope we didn't dig ourselves too deep of a hole with two of the three series on the road," Jamieson said. "We have to go out and keep fighting."
Schmidt, who had a hit and a run for Missouri on Sunday, also said winning on the road is tough but echoed Zastryzny's stance that by proving themselves the past two weekends, the team thinks it can continue playing well regardless of location.
"We wanted to make a statement that we're better than what we've played," Schmidt said. "We've got the ball rolling in the right direction.
"We definitely control our own destiny. We have to take care of business and play good baseball like we did this weekend."
Much of that newfound confidence comes from finally getting timely hits. Look at the scoreboard for most of the season, and you would see similar digits in the hits column but a gap in the runs column.
Against Texas A&M, the Tigers proved they could score baserunners, breaking out for seven runs in the seventh inning during Friday's 10-9 win and nine runs in the sixth inning of Saturday's 9-1 victory.
"It was only a matter of time, we were bound to get a big hit some time," Schmidt said. "We were able to do that more consistently, and the more timely hitting helped us out a lot."
The pitching staff showed improvements, too. Matt Stites gave up six hits and one run on Saturday, his second consecutive strong outing, and on Friday, Eric Anderson threw 90 pitches, the most since suffering a torn labrum last season, and gave up four earned runs.
"Getting Eric Anderson back is a big boost," Jamieson said. "He's a legitimate guy, and even though he's still not all the way back, he gives us three guys on the weekend."
On Sunday, Jamieson was disappointed Missouri couldn't maintain an early 2-0 lead by the time the rain started. But as the players waited eagerly for the rain to stop, he saw the confidence Schmidt spoke of.
"That's a big step forward," Jamieson said. "It hadn't been that way all year."