COLUMBIA — After a weekend series in Florida, the Missouri baseball team was welcomed back to the Show-Me State by a dreary, damp and cold Tuesday evening game against Southeast Missouri State.
The Tigers were in desperate need of a pick-me-up after being swept by the No. 6 Gators in Gainesville last weekend. That was Missouri's second-straight series sweep loss in SEC play, the first coming at the hands of Mississippi State a week prior. SEMO was Missouri's last non-conference bout before rounding out the year with three must-win SEC series.
Missouri (20-24) made a gutsy ninth-inning comeback and grabbed a 6-5 11th-inning victory over SEMO. Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said the win couldn't have come at a better time.
"We just needed to feel good. It's been a beat-down season," Jamieson said. And we didn't need another beat-down."
Missouri's first run of the game came in the fourth inning from a solo home run by Dillon Everett, the second home run of his career. Everett's first home run came 364 days ago, April 30, 2013, against SEMO.
"That was the joke before the game," Everett said with a laugh. "They told me we were playing SEMO, so I would get another one."
SEMO kept a comfortable lead for most of the game. In the top of the ninth, the Redhawks' designated hitter ripped a home run over the right field wall to give SEMO a 5-3 lead.
But Missouri countered with a designated hitter of their own.
Missouri's designated hitter, Eric Anderson, stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line and drilled a double to deep center field. SEMO's center fielder made a valiant effort, running into the rain and sliding across the grass in a diving attempt, but he could not bring the ball in. Two runs scored and the Tigers tied the score.
This was the Tigers fifth game to go into extra innings in their last nine contests, and their second in a row.
In the 11th inning, Anderson came to the plate to play the hero for the second time in one night. Anderson drove a ball to deep center field and slid into third for a triple. But SEMO's shortstop threw a wild relay ball to third that flew past the third baseman and into the dugout. Anderson jogged home, where his teammates met him to celebrate.
"I knew that I hadn't had the best day, and those are the best days to switch that mindset around and get that hit," Anderson said.
Even with the win, the Tigers are in a tough position heading into the final stretch of the season.
The three remaining series on the Tigers schedule, at home against Vanderbilt, on the road at South Carolina and back at home against Arkansas, are all against teams with better records than the Tigers.
As the better records indicate, these teams are also all ahead of the Tigers in the SEC standings.
Missouri is currently No. 14, dead last, in the SEC. Only the top 12 teams compete in the SEC tournament, and the Tigers are 1 1/2 games out of 12th place. If the Tigers want to see any postseason play, they will have to beat teams that have, thus far, proven to be better than them.
"We're the underdog. We've always been the underdog," Everett said. "We've got nothing to lose."
Missouri takes on Vanderbilt at home in a three game series that begins Friday. Last season, Vanderbilt put a ruthless beating on the Tigers in Nashville, and Jamieson hasn't forgotten about it.
"They weren't afraid to rub it in last year," Jamieson said. "And we'll remind our guys of that."
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.