The 20 women that make up the Missouri softball team weren’t the only Tigers looking to win a Big 12 Championship on Sunday.
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and tight end Martin Rucker were among the 646 people at University Field, most of whom were hoping the softball team would capture Missouri’s second Big 12 Conference team championship in its history.
“Every sport wants Missouri to win another Big 12 championship,” said Pinkel, who inconspicuously watched the game from behind the right-field wall. “It means a lot to everybody. We are all a part of that, which is why I’m here.”
Rucker, who followed the action from the bleachers behind home plate, attended the game “both as a fan and a supporter,” because he is friends with some of the softball players.
Rucker said he is aware of the excitement that comes with having a chance to win a conference championship and didn’t want to miss out on the chance to witness some history.
“Winning a championship means everything to athletes, which is part of the reason why I’m here,” Rucker said. “I wanted the chance to share the glory of the moment, which is what we all play for. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine said he realizes the impact his team’s season has had on the rest of Missouri athletics, especially after his team outperformed many preseason predictions.
“No one expected us to be in this position,” said Earleywine, whose team finished the regular season at 37-21, including a 13-4 conference record. “But any time any team does well here, it’s good for all of us.”
While the Missouri softball team came up one game short in its quest for a Big 12 championship, Rucker said the team’s season has made a statement about Missouri athletics.
“Losing never feels good enough, but I think everyone knows now that we’re coming together as a school,” Rucker said. “We’re turning this thing around together as a sports program.”
- Baylor (45-12, 14-3, Big 12) compiled a school-record 14 conference wins and tied its highest national ranking ever at No. 7. The Bears have won 19 of their past 22 games, including a 5-4 victory over No. 6 Texas A&M on Saturday in Waco, Texas to clinch the championship. Baylor will face the winner of the No. 8 Texas Tech vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State contest at 1:30 p.m. Friday.