COLUMBIA – If Missouri baseball fans were to look at the box score of the Tigers' game against North Dakota Tuesday night, they might think that the two teams were long-time bitter rivals hoping to not just defeat one another, but to inflict some serious physical harm.
They would think that because there were nine batters hit by pitches (four from North Dakota and five from Missouri) during this regulation-length game, in which Missouri escaped with 10-7 victory.
There is no history of ill will between these teams. There is barely a history at all. Before Tuesday night, the two squads have only played each other six times since their first meeting in 1976.
In reality, the nine plunked batters were more representative of the sloppy performances of each team rather than the feelings they have for each other.
In addition to the nine hit batters, the teams combined for six errors leading to four unearned runs. But Missouri coach Tim Jamieson couldn't help but be a little optimistic after the game.
"I'd rather win a game ugly than lose a game pretty," he said about the Tigers' seventh straight victory.
Even the Tigers' biggest offensive outburst of the evening came after some unprecedented ugliness.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Tigers were trailing North Dakota 7-5 when a couple of the Fighting Sioux pitchers started doing their best impression of Charlie Sheen's character from Major League, Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn.
After getting the first batter of the inning to ground out, North Dakota pitcher Brett DeGagne walked Missouri first baseman Gavin Stark, hit catcher Ben Turner and then plunked second baseman Dillon Everett to load the bases.
Having seen enough, North Dakota manager Jeff Dodson called for reliever Alex Twenge, who proceeded to warm up, throw one pitch and then drill leadoff hitter Blake Brown in the back on his second pitch of the game.
That made three hit batsmen in a row. And for those who might not be sure, this is not a common occurrence. The Tigers cut the two-run deficit in half simply by getting in the way of the ball.
After Brown took his well-earned base, the Tigers big hitter of the day, center fielder Brannon Champagne (3-for-4, 5 RBIs), hit a line shot down the third base line that plated all three runners, giving Missouri (9-5) a lead they would not relinquish.
It was a clutch hit, but Champagne said that he wasn't sure he would even get a chance to swing the bat the way things had been going.
"Three guys got hit (before me) so I wanted to take that first pitch to make sure he knew where the zone was," Champagne said.
He did, and thankfully for the Tigers, Champagne recognized it and was able to deliver in a big situation, something the Tigers have been doing a lot recently.
"We just have to be patient," Jamieson said. "It was a little frustrating the first four innings or so, but we've come back in several of the games now, so I just have to believe in them.
"We didn't play great, but we found a way to win, so I'll take it."
At least the Tigers won't have much time to dwell on this game. The second game of this two-game set with North Dakota (1-9) is Wednesday evening, and then they face a quick turnaround with a three game series against High Point University this weekend.
Missouri junior Scott Sommerfeld's 10-game hitting streak came to an end. He went 0-for-5. Senior Jeff Emens (2-0) added 3.1 innings to his bullpen-leading 18.1 innings pitched. Sophomore pitcher Jake Walsh earned his sixth save of the year, halfway to the Missouri record of 12. Senior catcher Ben Turner was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate, clubbing his first extra base hit of the year.