Mizzou softball and baseball teams in unexpected post season spots
Missouri’s Jeff Emens (20) celebrates along with teammates after defeating Oklahoma 8-7 in the Big 12 conference championship game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, May 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Is it possible that Missouri sent its teams to the wrong cities?
In Columbia, the team that should have won — the nationally-ranked and favored Missouri softball team — lost two of three games to unranked LSU.
In Oklahoma City, the Missouri baseball team that struggled to a 10-14 finish in Big 12 conference play, won the conference championship game against Oklahoma.
Missouri players Carlie Rose (5) Alyssa Cousins (17) Rachel Hay (00) Princess Krebs (42) and Ashley Fleming (30) watch as the LSU Tigers celebrate their Super Regional win Sunday, May 27, 2012 in Columbia, Mo. LSU won two of three games in the series.
It’s all about timing. The Missouri women faced an LSU team on the rise and the Missouri men picked a good time to rise from the ranks of mediocre teams and show their potential. The scenario that seemed unlikely a week ago has the baseball team heading into the NCAA national tournament and the women’s season ending without a spot in the women’s World Series.
Big 12 championship baseball final
With Missouri just one strike away from winning its first Big 12 championship, there was no way coach Tim Jamieson could feel comfortable.
He had been this close before – painfully close – and the title slipped away both times. And this was his last chance, with the Tigers getting ready to start chasing Southeastern Conference crowns next season.
Even when it was over and Missouri had beaten Oklahoma 8-7 on Sunday, getting the final out when a runner was hit by a batted ball and then tagging out another at the plate just in case, he wasn’t sure if it was finally time to celebrate.
“I saw the out at the plate and then I looked up and I saw both umpires (holding up their fists), so at that point, I was a little bit worried about, ‘Did we do something?’ Because that’s how it goes here,” Jamieson said.
The Tigers had been within one strike of winning the Big 12 tournament in 2004 and last season, and Jamieson recalls looking over his shoulder both times to see officials with championship hats and T-shirts waiting to be passed out.
This time, he paced in the dugout when pinch-hitter Chase Simpson got two strikes on him and grabbed a bottle of water and sat down after the next two pitches were balls. He checked twice to see if there was anyone holding championship gear, and didn’t see anyone.
After 24 years of trying – six as an assistant coach and 18 as the head coach – he finally got to see his players celebrate with black-and-white caps and bright gold T-shirts stamped “Big 12 Champions.”
“We talked about it a lot over the summer, all the guys that went through it last year, just knowing that the seniors had one more chance and Coach J had one more chance to come down here and be able to get a ring and be able to come win a conference championship,” said catcher Ben Turner, who had two singles and two RBIs.
Sixth-seeded Mizzou dogpiled on the infield and dumped a cooler of water on Jamieson to celebrate its first baseball title since winning the Big Eight under Gene McArtor in 1980.
It’s also the third conference title for Missouri in its final Big 12 season — along with the men’s basketball and wrestling titles. The Tigers had previously won only four postseason conference titles since the Big 12 was formed in 1996.
“We haven’t had a lot of those at Missouri and we haven’t had any in baseball, so it meant a lot,” Jamieson said. “We’ve been so close — right there — and we finally got over the hump. It’s special in so many different ways because we struggled this year, we had a lot of ups and downs. But you knew it was there, and it came together at the right time.”
Dillon Everett also drove in two runs and Blake Brown scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for Missouri (32-27). Dusty Rose got the win for the Tigers and Blake Holovach got the final two outs for his first save.
“I love coming here. I always have, and I’ll miss it. … I’ve got a lot of big-time memories, not just on the field,” Jamieson said. “It’s special to win the last one.”
Eric Garcia was named Most Outstanding Player for the tournament, hitting .500 with three RBI, five runs and four walks. Also named for All-Tournament team honors were Dane Opel, Blake Brown and Jeff Emens.
Women’s Super Regional final
After Friday night’s loss Missouri knew it had to play 14 innings of ball on Sunday in order to advance. They hadn’t anticipated playing 12 of those in one game.
It took nearly four hours for Missouri to win the first game on Sunday. Chelsea Thomas started the game, pitching for 11 innings in the 5-1 victory.
“She threw good. I’m proud of her. In all honesty she didn’t throw her best again, but as I told you all last night, even if she just threw average, she would give LSU all they wanted, and she did just that,” said coach Ehren Earleywine.
Thomas struck out eight, walked four and allowed an unearned run. Bailey Erwin came in to pitch in what would be the last inning.
Missouri and LSU put up runs in the third inning then, as predicted, the pitchers shut down both sides.
Nicole Hudson, Ashley Fleming, Jenna Marston and Kayla Kingsley scored on a series of hits and LSU errors in the 12th inning. Erwin faced three LSU batters and shut them down.
In the final game of the series Missouri’s offense petered out.Missouri got on the board first with a run in the third inning but LSU quickly answered with three runs. That was all the offense either team could muster.
“Obviously we didn’t hit the way we wanted to all season pretty much,” said Ashley Fleming, the team’s leading hitter.
“I mean we’ve had games where we’ve hit good but just consistently not what we are capable of. There’d be different times where somebody would be hitting better than usual, and then other times it would be somebody else, but we never really had a time where everything was clicking perfectly through line- up.”
Missouri finishes the season at 47-14, 17-7 in the Big 12. Fleming, a senior, leaves with a team-leading batting average of .365. Senior pitcher Kristin Nottelmann ends with a 12-5 record and 2.41 ERA.