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First Big 12 baseball title special for Missouri's Jamieson

Sunday, May 27, 2012 | 8:39 p.m. CDT; updated 10:25 p.m. CDT, Sunday, May 27, 2012
Pitcher Jeff Emens (No. 20) pumps his fist as Missouri players celebrate defeating Oklahoma 8-7 on Sunday to earn the program's first Big 12 Conference tournament championship.

OKLAHOMA CITY — With Missouri just one strike away from winning its first Big 12 tournament championship, there was no way coach Tim Jamieson could feel comfortable.

He had been this close before — painfully close — and the title slipped away both times. And this was his last chance, with the Tigers getting ready to start chasing Southeastern Conference crowns next season.

Even when it was over and Missouri had beaten Oklahoma 8-7 on Sunday, getting the final out when a runner was hit by a batted ball and then tagging out another at the plate just in case, he wasn't sure if it was finally time to celebrate.

"I saw the out at the plate and then I looked up and I saw both umpires (holding up their fists), so at that point, I was a little bit worried about, 'Did we do something?' Because that's how it goes here," Jamieson said.

The Tigers had been within one strike of winning the Big 12 tournament in 2004 and last season, and Jamieson recalls looking over his shoulder both times to see officials with championship hats and T-shirts waiting to be passed out.

This time, he paced in the dugout when pinch-hitter Chase Simpson got two strikes on him and grabbed a bottle of water and sat down after the next two pitches were balls. He checked twice to see if there was anyone holding championship gear, and didn't see anyone.

After 24 years of trying — six as an assistant coach and 18 as the head coach — he finally got to see his players celebrate with black-and-white caps and bright gold T-shirts stamped "Big 12 Champions."

"We talked about it a lot over the summer, all the guys that went through it last year, just knowing that the seniors had one more chance and Coach J had one more chance to come down here and be able to get a ring and be able to come win a conference championship," said catcher Ben Turner, who had two singles and two RBIs.

The final out came when Simpson's grounder into right field hit off Caleb Bushyhead as he ran from first to second. Pinch-runner Dustin Dishman continued running, and Dane Opel's throw from right field arrived in time for him to be tagged out before he reached home plate.

"I saw it hit him right on the leg. I was freaking out," Turner said. "I thought I saw somebody call it, so I just figured I'd catch it and tag the guy. Then I don't know what happened."

Sixth-seeded Mizzou dogpiled on the infield and dumped a cooler of water on Jamieson to celebrate its first baseball title since winning the Big Eight under Gene McArtor in 1980.

It's also the third conference title for Missouri in its final Big 12 season — along with the men's basketball and wrestling titles. The Tigers had previously won only four postseason conference titles since the Big 12 was formed in 1996.

"We haven't had a lot of those at Missouri and we haven't had any in baseball, so it meant a lot," Jamieson said. "We've been so close — right there — and we finally got over the hump. It's special in so many different ways because we struggled this year, we had a lot of ups and downs. But you knew it was there, and it came together at the right time."

Dillon Everett also drove in two runs and Blake Brown scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for Missouri (32-27), which earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers are back in for the first time since 2009, the last in a string of seven straight appearances. They will find out their NCAA regional destination Monday morning.

Matt Oberste homered and Evan Mistich and Garrett Carey each drove in two runs for the fourth-seeded Sooners (38-22), who should also be bound for the NCAAs after winning 20 of their final 28 games — including five wins against regular season Big 12 champion Baylor, which was 22-1 against other conference foes.

"It's taking a special effort to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners right now," coach Sunny Golloway said. "And that's what we control. We control going out and playing good baseball and making it be a special effort, and when it is you tip your cap.

"We're heartbroken, don't get me wrong. I know it's been since '97 (since Oklahoma won the Big 12 title). Nobody wanted it more than we did, I promise you. I didn't sleep last night."

The Sooners rallied back from a 7-2 deficit to tie on Carey's two-run single off Dusty Ross (4-1). Everett's relay throw cut down Bushyhead as he tried to score all the way from first on Oberste's double to right-center in the seventh, denying Oklahoma a chance to go ahead.

Brown singled to start the eighth and moved to third when Steven Okert (8-7) fielded Turner's sacrifice bunt and threw it off of Brown and into center field. Brown then scored on Opel's double-play grounder.

The benches cleared in the bottom of the eighth when Jake Walsh hit Cody Reine in the back with a pitch, but cooler heads prevailed and the teams were separated without incident.

Ryan Yuengel retired Max White on a fly out to the track in center field. Blake Holovach got the final two outs for his first save.

"I love coming here. I always have, and I'll miss it. ... I've got a lot of big-time memories, not just on the field," Jamieson said. "It's special to win the last one."


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