The Mizzou baseball team won its first ever Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in its last ever appearance as it defeated fourth-seeded Oklahoma, 8-7, in a wild game on Sunday afternoon (May 27) at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Tigers fended off a furious Sooner rally as the final out in the ninth came on a runners’ interference call as a single to the right side hit OU’s Caleb Bushyhead between first and second base.
The Big 12 Tournament title for the Tiger baseball team is their first-ever in the sport and is Mizzou’s first baseball conference title since 1980 when it won the Big 8 Tournament. The Tigers beat a pair of top 25 teams, Texas and their archrival Kansas en-route to winning the championship. The win secures the Tigers an appearance at an NCAA Regional for the eighth time in 10 years.
Shortstop Eric Garcia was named Most Outstanding Player after hitting .500 with three RBI, five runs and four walks while stealing three bases. Joining Garcia on the All-Tournament team were Dane Opel, Blake Brown and Jeff Emens. The Championship for the Tigers is their first in four appearances in the Big 12 Tournament title game and the first for head coach Tim Jamieson, who has coached in five conference championship games (one Big 8, four Big 12). Also, the three Big 12 titles for Mizzou this season are the most ever for the school, which is in its last year as a member of the conference.
“We won,” Jamieson said. “The fifth time is the charm for me. It was an awesome effort by our guys. There were so many different situations where one pitch, one play or one at bat can change the game. For us to basically lose the lead, though we never trailed, to find a way to score and hold on, we found a way to get rid of a lot of demons. We’ve had a hard time putting Oklahoma away over the years. It’s a great feeling.”
In fact, Mizzou and Oklahoma have played very close games as of late as 10 of the last 13 meetings between the two have been decided by two runs or less. The Tigers are the second No. 6 seed to win the Big 12 Tournament. In all, the Tigers’ hit .359 in the Tournament, the best of any team, and also posted a team ERA of 2.73 in the four games.
“All up and down the lineup, we’ve been able to hit the ball really well,” Garcia said. “Fortunately, I got kind of hot towards the end. Luckily, I was able to get some hits when we needed. We went out there and competed, and we knew we needed to win this game. We showed it.”
Mizzou jumped all over Oklahoma starter Damien Magnifico as Garcia reached on an error by OU shortstop Caleb Bushyhead. Brown then ripped a ground rule double to left center, just in front of the 415-foot sign, to put runners on second and third with no outs. Turner, who had been clutch all tournament, then delivered with a single back up the middle to score both runs, putting Mizzou on top, 2-0. Opel then walked on five pitches and that ended Magnifico’s day as OU Friday night starter Dillon Overton took over from there.
McGraw was the first Tiger batter to face Overton and he ripped a single back up the middle to score Turner from second base. McGraw then advanced to second on an error as Opel moved to third, forcing an errant throw from center fielder Max White. Plackis then grounded out to short to score Opel and that moved the score to 4-0 through the top of the first.
Zastryzny then came out in the bottom of the first and worked around a two-out single to post a scoreless frame. Mizzou nearly scored again in the second as Turner delivered a two-out hit to right field and Garcia appeared to score, but he missed the plat and was tagged out for the third out of the inning. That took away Turner’s third RBI of the day.
OU carried the momentum of that play into the bottom of the second inning as Matt Oberste hit his third homer of the tournament, a two-out bomb to center field, off of Zastryzny, to cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-1.OU then scored again in the fourth, again with two outs, as Caleb Bushyhead singled in a run to cut the lead to 4-2.
Just as Oklahoma started to apply some pressure, the Tigers put together a rally in the fifth. Three straight one-out singles by Opel, McGraw and Plackis loaded the bases with one out, but Sommerfeld struck out swinging to bring in a Everett in a tight spot. But the sophomore second baseman delivered a clutch, two-out single to right, scoring two runs, putting Mizzou on top, 6-2. That hit ended Overton’s day in favor of Steven Okhert, who gave up another RBI single to Garcia, giving the Tigers a 7-2 lead.
OU once again answered in the fifth as it put up a three spot as Zastryzny allowed two men to reach base before reliever Jeff Emens issued a walk to load the bases. The Tigers nearly got out of the jam on a 5-2-3 double play, but OU’s White just beat the play at first. Then OU tallied three runs with two outs, the big blow being a two-double by Evan Mistich, immediately following the nearly-turned double play.
The Sooners then tied the game with two more runs in the sixth on a two-out single by Garrett Carey off of Dusty Ross to tie the game at 7-7. The Sooners nearly took the lead in the bottom of the seventh as a two-out single was hit into right field, but a great relay by Opel and Everett gunned the would-be go-ahead run at the plate.
Mizzou carried that momentum into the top of the eighth as Brown led off the frame with a single into center field. Turner then attempted to sacrifice Brown to second and OU pitcher Okhert tried to gun Brown at second but threw the ball into center, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Mach then walked on four pitches and Opel knocked in the go-ahead run on a double-play ball as Mizzou took an 8-7 lead headed into the bottom of the eighth.
OU threatened to score in the eighth inning after Ross issued a two-out walk while Jake Walsh hit a batter. The benches cleared for a moment as tempers flared following the hit batter, but Ryan Yuengel came in to get the final out of the frame, sending the game to the ninth.
Yuengel walked the first batter and OU bunted him to second for the first out. Holovach then got the second out on a pop-up. That brought in Chase Simpson, who singled through the right side, but the ball hit Bushyhead for the final out of the game.
Mizzou will find out its NCAA Tournament desitnation tomorrow at 11 a.m. when the field is unveiled. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MUTigerBaseball.