Sophomore infielder Eric Garcia tallied an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Mizzou baseball team escaped with a 6-5 win over fourth-seeded Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday (May 26) at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. The win puts the Tigers into the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament where they will face either Oklahoma State or Texas on Saturday at 9 a.m.
“I’m really proud of these guys, not just this weekend, but over the last five or six weeks. We’re looking forward to playing on Saturday,” head coach Tim Jamieson said. “We got a great effort from a lot of different people. We only swung the bats well in a couple different innings, but we’re fortunate that was enough.”
The Tigers carried a 5-0 lead into the eighth inning, but OSU scored three in the eighth and two more in the ninth to tie the score at 5-5, setting up the heroics in the ninth. The win for the Tigers improves them to 26-30 this season and it is their fifth walk-off win against Big 12 competition this season, the most by any team in the league. It is also the first walk-off win at the Big 12 Tournament since the championship game last season.
“We’ve had some great ninth-inning wins and extra-inning wins, and today is probably one of the biggest ones we’ve had all year just because we need to win this tournament,” Garcia said. “I feel like we’re riding our confidence right now.”
The win also keeps the Tigers from dropping to the losers’ bracket of the tournament as the winner of tomorrow’s elimination game will need to defeat the Tigers twice on Saturday in order to advance to the final.
Senior second baseman Andrew Thigpen led the Tigers at the plate on Thursday, going 3-4 with a run scored and it was his hit that started the ninth-inning rally for the Tigers. Leadoff hitter Conner Mach also had a nice day, going 3-5 with a pair of runs scored, including the game winner on Garcia’s single. Garcia went 1-3 with an RBI and a run scored and shortstop Jesse Santo had a huge two-run single in the fifth as he went 1-4 on the day. Blake Brown, Brannon Champagne and Ben Turner also added RBIs in the contest.
Senior lefty Phil McCormick earned his eighth win of the season after blowing the save in the ninth. His eight wins are the most by a Tiger this season. Freshman starter Rob Zastryzny got a tough no-decision on the day, going 7.0 innings while allowing two earned runs and striking out seven, just one off of his career high.
“My arm felt good, everything felt good. The mound was really nice for me; it wasn’t wet,” Zastryzny said following the game. “Ben (Turner) gave me a good target, coach (Matt) Hobbs threw some good pitches for me and I just executed them.”
The game started as a pitchers’ duel through the first four and a half innings as Zastryzny and OSU starter Brad Propst both pitched their way out of trouble early in the game. Zastryzny was sharp, keeping OSU scoreless heading into the bottom of the fifth inning.
That is when the Tigers finally got to Propst as Thigpen led off the inning with his second hit of the day. Mach followed that with a single back up the middle, putting runners on the corners with no one out. Champagne then knocked a single through the right side to score the game’s first run, putting the Tigers on top, 1-0. From there, Garcia bunted the runners to second and third, bringing up yesterday’s heroJonah Schmidt, who walked despite falling behind in the count.
With the bases loaded, Brown then drew a walk and Turner followed suit in the next at bat, giving Mizzou two more runs and making the score 3-0. Then Santo delivered the big blow of the inning. After OSU brought in Blake Barnes to pitch, Santo laced a single back up the middle to bring in two more runs, putting the Tigers on top, 5-0.
Following the Tigers’ big inning, Zastryzny continued to mow through the OSU order, throwing scoreless sixth and seventh innings. OSU finally got to him in the eighth as the first two runners reached base. He was then lifted in favor of Dusty Ross and on his first pitch, OSU first baseman Zach Johnson homered to cut into the lead at 5-3. But Ross retired the next three batters to send the Tigers to the bottom of the eighth with a two-run lead.
But McCormick, the Tiger closer, struggled in the ninth, loading the bases and then allowing a two-run single by Johnson to tie the game at 5-5. Garcia got the Tigers out of the inning on what looked to be a sure hit through the right side as he snared the ball to his left and flipped it to McCormick who was covering at first for the out, ending the threat and likely saving the go-ahead run.
That set up the heroics in the ninth. Thigpen led off the inning with his third hit of the day and Mach followed that with a single through the left side, also his third hit of the day. After Champagne failed to lay down a successful sacrifice bunt, Garcia came in and hit a seeing-eye single through the right side to score Mach from second. The walk-off hit for Garcia was his second of the season.
Mizzou will have the day off tomorrow before facing the winner of tomorrow’s elimination game between Texas and Oklahoma State on Saturday at 9 a.m.