COLUMBIA — The Missouri baseball team out-dueled the Oklahoma State Cowboys this weekend, taking two of three from its Big 12 rivals. The "highlight" of the series? First basemen Gavin Stark's tumbling catch on Saturday night that appeared at No. 5 on ESPN SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays."
The way Stark tells it is that he was a playing a deep first base when the ball was hit toward the visiting team dugout. He went running over to the wall as fast as he could, not knowing how close to it he was and trying to avoid taking out his own legs. He jumped into the air and caught the ball and barreled headlong into the dugout, landing face first on the bench.
Pitching was the key for Missouri (14-8, 2-1 Big 12) in their series against Oklahoma State in which it won the second game of Saturday's doubleheader and the third game on Sunday. Tiger starters, Rob Zastryzny, Blake Holovach and Jeff Emens combined to throw 22 innings allowing only 1 earned run.
Zastryzny (2-1, 3.93 ERA), Saturday's game one starter, stuck out a career high 12 batters. If it weren't for a come-from-behind ninth inning two-run home run off closer Jake Walsh, the Tigers would have swept the series.
Missouri's next opponent is Central Arkansas whom the Tigers will battle in a two game series Tuesday and Wednesday
The play, however, and Stark's new found fame have caused quite a bit of stir in the Tiger clubhouse. Many of Stark's teammates are having fun at his expense.
Senior catcher, Ben Turner who was closest to Stark when he made the grab, had a slightly different take on the play.
"He didn't need to jump to catch that ball," Turner teased as he mimed Stark's catch and, in his view, subsequent jump in an interview after Sunday's game.
Turner, who's also Stark's roommate, said he was so unimpressed by the play that he didn't even stay up Saturday night to watch the replay. "He (Gavin) was like, 'It's going to be on SportsCenter,' and I was like, I'm going to bed. I'll watch it in the morning."
A bashful Stark talked about the catch after Sunday's game.
"Oh gosh. It was a good play, I guess," he said. "Everyone's giving me trouble. They said I could have caught it without falling into the dugout, so I got to watch my words carefully here."
Unfortunately for Stark, that did seem to be the team consensus, though centerfielder Brannon Champagne tried to be a little more positive with Stark.
"I said (to him) way to make 'Top Ten,' way to represent Mizzou, but you didn't have to jump," Champagne joked.
Starting pitcher of Sunday afternoon's game Jeff Emens piled on.
"The first time I saw it, I was in the (bull)pen, and I was thinking that was definitely No. 1 on the top plays," Emens said. "But then I saw it on the highlights, and you know if he wouldn't have jumped ... he could have gotten hurt."
After enduring as much abuse as he has, there was really only one thing left for Stark to say to someone who accused him of making the play look more difficult than it was:
"Yeah, I know. I just wanted to make SportsCenter."