Mizzou toasts Champagne after seventh straight win

Story by Gary Cotton
Photos by Kevin Donnellan

Jeff Emens pitches with a runner at first base. Emens got the Tigers out of the fourth inning without allowing North Dakota to add to its 3-0 lead.

Trailing North Dakota 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Missouri took advantage of a walk and three consecutive hit batters to load the bases and set up a three-run double by Brannon Champagne, grabbing the lead 8-7. The Tigers went on to win the game 10-7.

The junior outfielder had five RBIs in the game, the first time a Tiger had done so since the 2010 season. Champagne said he wanted to test the struggling pitcher, Brett DeGagne.

“Three guys got hit, so I wanted to take that first pitch just to make sure he knew where the zone was,” Champagne said. “I just wanted to stay back and try to see it deep and hit it somewhere left side. Thankfully it stayed fair and was good.”

Missouri’s starting pitcher Brett Graves had faltered in the third inning as North Dakota scored their first three runs off a walk and two hits. Graves pitched three innings allowing four hits and three runs while striking out three North Dakota hitters. He was relieved by senior Jeff Emens who allowed five hits and four runs that helped keep North Dakota in the game. John Miles relieved Emens and was credited with the win. Jake Walsh pitched the final two innings in relief and earned the save.

Coach Tim Jamieson noted his team’s need for improvement on defense. Despite that, he said he was pleased with their resilience.

“We didn’t play great, but we found a way to win,” Jamieson said. “We got some clutch base hits, but we didn’t play very well defensively.”

A single by Dillon Everett helped set up Champagne’s big play and broke the Tigers’ drought. Despite Missouri’s struggles in the first few innings, Jamieson said he stayed mum throughout the slow start.

“I didn’t have to say anything,” Jamieson said. “We’ve been patient so far. It was a little frustrating for the first four innings or so, but we’ve come back in several of the games now you just have to believe in them.”

Jamieson is starting to believe more in catcher Ben Turner. The senior couldn’t stay off base Tuesday logging three hits and runs off of three appearances at bat. Jamieson said it’s about time to move Turner up in the batting line up, but not too far.

“Tonight was the best night he’s had probably since the first weekend,” Jamieson said. “I’m not sure I’m willing to move him up that far yet, but he belongs up higher than eighth.”

A hard hitting catcher might be a plus, but Jamieson said his team will need to take a little more out of the win to have future Big 12 success.

“I’d rather win game ugly than lose a game pretty,” Jamieson said. “If we learn from the mistakes we’ve made we’ll be better for it.”

Missouri will play its second game against North Dakota Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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