The Mizzou baseball team advanced to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament semifinal round with a 5-3 win over No. 6 ranked and second-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday night (May 24) at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Tiger pitching duo of Blake Holovach and Jeff Emens was backed by some timely hitting. Holovach earned the win – his seventh of the season – after going 5.1 innings, allowing just three earned runs. Emens came on and pitched the final 3.2 innings to earn his third save of the season, striking out six batters while not allowing a hit or a walk.
“It was a great effort from our ball club,” head coach Tim Jamieson said. “Blake Holovach pitched like he did earlier in the year and then Jeff was unbelievable to finish the game. Timely hitting, good pitching and good defense gave us a chance.”
The win gives the Tigers the day off tomorrow as they will play the winner of Texas A&M and Kansas, who will play an elimination game tomorrow at 7 p.m. The winner of that game will then need to defeat the Tigers twice on Saturday. It is the second straight year that Mizzou has advanced to Saturday in the winner’s bracket. The loss snaps an eight-game winning streak for the Aggies and broke their 11-game Big 12 Tournament winning streak, which was the second-longest in tournament history. Also, the Tigers dealt A&M starter Michael Wacha his first loss of the season as he was 8-0 coming into the start.
At the plate, Mizzou was led by Eric Garcia, who went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Blake Brown may have had the highlight of the game in the fourth inning as he launched a 1-0 pitch well over 400 feet that completely left the stadium, putting Mizzou on top, 2-1, at the time. He went 1-for-3 in the game with a run and an RBI.
“Right before the at bat, coach Jackson told me to be looking for the fast ball,” Brown said. “First pitch he threw a curve ball, which made me rethink my approach. Next pitch he threw the inside fastball, I just tried to keep my hands true through the ball and it worked out.”
Both pitchers looked sharp in the first inning. Holovach worked around a one-out single to retire the A&M side on just 11 pitches. Wacha came to the hill and was equally as impressive as he retired the Tiger lineup in order, also on 11 pitches, tallying a pair of strikeouts in the frame.
Holovach came back in the second and again worked around a hit, this time a two-out double off the bat of Brandon Wood. He battled back and struck out Krey Bratsen to send the game to the bottom of the second. He threw 29 pitches through the first two innings, 20 for strikes.
Mizzou got to Wacha in the second inning as Conner Mach led off the frame with a single. He was advanced to second on a bunt by Dane Opel and then moved to third on a groundout by Andreas Plackis. Then, with Michael McGraw at the plate, Wacha bounced a pitch that snuck past catcher Troy Stein, allowing Mach to score from third on the wild pitch.
Texas A&M knotted the score at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning as they were finally able to get to Holovach. After back-to-back singles by Jacob House and Troy Stein, Micahel Nau lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to tie the game. But Mizzou answered right away in the bottom half of the fourth as Brown hit his 10th home run of the season on the Wacha’s second pitch of the inning, a shot that carried over the scoreboard in left field and completely out of the stadium, smacking the adjacent parking garage beyond left field, well over 420 feet.
The Tigers then got two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. McGraw hit a one-out double off the wall in left field and then Scott Sommerfeld singled him in on a hard hit ball over the second baseman’s head for the third run of the game. Sommerfeld then was caught stealing before Dillon Everett hit a single to short. Everett then advanced to third on a failed pick-off at first base and he was singled in for the fourth run by Garcia.
Texas A&M got two runs back in the top of the sixth as they loaded the bases with one out, due in large part to back-to-back singles to open the inning off of Holovach. Nau again came up for A&M with a chance to drive in a run and delivered, lacing a single back up the middle to score a pair of runs. From there, Emens came on and got the next two batters to get out of the jam, sending the game to the bottom of the sixth inning with Mizzou on top, 4-3.
The Tigers put two men on with one out, but Plackis hit into a 6-4-3 double play to send the game to the seventh inning. Then Emens came back out for the top of the seventh and Scott Arthur reached base on an error by Garcia and was advanced to second on a bunt, bringing in Tyler Naquin. But Emens got Naquin to strike and then got Matt Juengel to ground out to third, sending the game to the bottom of the seventh inning with Mizzou still on top, 4-3.
Opel added a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth as an insurance run for Emens, who was masterful leading into the ninth. Already striking out three batters, including pitching out of a big jam in the sixth, he came out in the ninth and struck out the side, giving him a season-best six strikeouts in the game.
Mizzou will play again on Saturday at 7 p.m. as it looks to advance to its third Big 12 Championship game in four years.