Sometimes, you’ve just got to take one, or three, for the team. With one odd and painful at-bat, senior John McKee delivered that message to his teammates Saturday at Nebraska, and they made the most of his efforts.
When McKee went to bat to start the top of the fifth inning, it looked as though the Tigers might have finally run out of steam. Missouri held a 13-game winning streak entering the game, but after four innings, the Tigers were down 3-1 and looked vulnerable. Missouri starter Rick Zagone had allowed six hits, including two doubles and a home run, and the Tigers’ offense had managed only two hits and had been struck out four times by Nebraska starter Charlie Shirek.
It was crucial then that McKee, who bats third in the Missouri order, get on base. And after getting hit by a pitch, it looked as though he had succeeded. But, as he started heading to first base, home plate umpire Dan Novak called McKee back, saying that he had been hit on the arm because he was in the motion of swinging.
After a brief argument from coach Tim Jamieson, McKee re-entered the batter’s box, got set and called time. But Shirek had started his motion, and despite the umpire’s signal for time, he delivered a pitch that hit McKee in the shoulder, awakening the Missouri bench and bringing the entire team to the top step of the dugout in defense of its slugger.
But McKee still wasn’t finished adding up bruises from the at-bat. Because he had called time before being hit a second time, he could not be awarded first base. It took being hit a third time, this time in the leg, for Novak to award McKee first base.
Two pitches later, cleanup hitter Ryan Lollis, who leads Missouri in both RBIs (31) and batting average (.351), made the most of McKee’s tough at-bat with a two-run home run that erased Nebraska’s lead and gave Missouri momentum that eventually brought the Tigers a 4-3 victory.
In a radio interview after the game, Jamieson said that moments like the one McKee delivered in the fifth can help keep players focused deep into a winning streak.
“Sometimes you need a little kick of adrenaline,” he said.
Missouri (20-5, 2-0) did not allow a run after that half inning, and Zagone allowed only two hits after that point on the way to recording his first complete game of the season and keeping his season record perfect at 4-0.
Missouri will try to finish the sweep of the Huskers (12-10, 1-4) at 1 p.m. today in Lincoln. The Tigers took the series’ first game on Friday afternoon 5-1 in 11 innings thanks in large part to starter Aaron Crow, who did not allow a hit until the fifth inning, and freshman Trevor Coleman, who had two RBIs in the top of the 11th inning to break a tie at 1.