Throughout the season, the Missouri baseball team stood by one motto.
“Hijack their happiness,” designated hitter Jacob Priday said.
The Tigers approached every game looking to derail the opposing team’s aspirations.
On Monday, Louisville’s Chris Dominguez hijacked Missouri’s motto and ended the Tigers’ season.
Dominguez’s first-inning grand slam and fourth-inning home run spurred the Cardinals’ 16-6 rout of Missouri in the championship game of the NCAA regional at Columbia. Louisville (44-21) advances to a super regional series against Oklahoma State.
Dominguez, the tournament’s most outstanding player, outscored Missouri by himself with seven RBIs.
“It was special,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell succinctly said about his third baseman’s performance. “I don’t know if it gets any bigger then hitting a grand slam in the first.”
The game’s outcome seemed determined after the first inning. Louisville sent 14 players to the plate and scored eight runs. Missouri (42-18) answered with five runs in the second, but was unable to get any closer to the red-hot Cardinals.
“It took a lot out of us,” a teary-eyed Aaron Senne said, “but it was better it came in the first inning than later in the game. We tried fighting back and we just couldn’t get enough runs on the board. We couldn’t stop them from putting more runs up, I guess.”
No team could stop Louisville this weekend. The Cardinals combined for a staggering .380 team average with 46 runs on 73 hits in five games.
For the second straight day, Dominguez was the focal point. On Sunday, Dominguez’s emotions after his winning home run angered Missouri players and fans. After both home runs on Monday, Dominguez put his head down and sprinted around the bases. The redshirt freshman said he used the controversy as motivation for Monday’s game.
“I was kind of nervous coming in,” Dominguez said, “because I’ve never been booed so much. But I guess it did build up a little fire in me.”
“I felt a little bad for him last night,” McDonnell said. “That he hits that big home run to put as ahead and a lot of the focus was on the way he acted and the way people responded to him. He wasn’t proud about letting the emotions get the best of him.”
Missouri players and coaches seemed stunned after the game.
“It hurts right now,” Senne said, his voice cracking. “Just because it’s hard because we’re going to miss playing with so many of the guys we’re losing this year. The Jake Pridays, the John McKees, the Evan Freys, Brock Bond. It’s just a tough time, but we did accomplish a lot this year and we’re proud that.”
Missouri’s Ryan Lollis tried to look ahead.
“It does hurt a lot losing guys like that,” he said. “But you get to look forward to playing with guys like Aaron Senne, Greg Folgia and Kyle Gibson.”
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson, stoic behind dark sunglasses, thanked the city of Columbia for its support during the tournament.
“At some point,” Jamieson began, “we’re going to be able to look at this as a real positive thing for the baseball program. It hurts quite a bit right now, because we felt like this was a team that could play quite a bit further into the summer.”
A regional tournament that saw over 10,000 fans flock to Taylor Stadium over four days exceeded most people’s expectations, except for the Missouri baseball team. A two-win opening for the Tigers left many looking forward to hosting a super regional. In the end, a hot Louisville Cardinals team sent many home for the summer disappointed.
Including the Missouri baseball team.