Backed against a wall and facing a sudden and disappointing end to their baseball season, the Missouri Tigers responded when it mattered most.
It just took them a little while.
Facing elimination in the second round of the Tucson Regional in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday against New Mexico State, the Tigers rallied down one run in the eighth inning to score five unanswered runs and breathe further life into their tournament play, winning the contest 6-2.
Senior pitcher Jeff Emens was given the win following the game. Emens has been used as a bullpen workhorse all season, and this game proved no different as he replaced starting sophomore Rob Zastryzny in the seventh, shutting down NMSU at the plate and closing out the game.
Zastryzny struggled in the early innings, digging the Tigers into a hole right off the bat. New Mexico State scored two in the first, jumping all over Zastryzny’s pitches before he could settle down and get the Tigers out of the inning. Missouri’s offense was also slow to get started and failed to muster a hit in response.
Zastryzny seemed to have found his groove by the second, retiring the side in order and providing the offense with a chance to gain back some momentum. The Tiger bats did just that, drawing the score back to 2-1 thanks to a single up the middle by junior Scott Sommerfeld that scored sophomore Michael McGraw.
It would be a while before either team would make it around the bases to home again, as the game became a defensive stalemate for the majority of the game. NMSU starter Adam Mott kept the Missouri offense in check, recording five strikeouts. The Tigers’ confidence was clearly waning at the plate, and Mott allowed only three additional hits heading into the eighth inning.
The Tiger bats lurched to life after senior Conner Mach notched a screaming double on the first pitch he saw from Mott, ending Mott’s day. With Mach on second, junior Dane Opel sliced an RBI single down left field. McGraw would continue the fireworks, slamming a triple to the fence, scoring Mach.
McGraw would trot home himself after Sommerfeld recorded yet another triple, a sliced line drive that dribbled around in the left field corner, scoring two more. Another single by junior Eric Garcia would score one more. When the dust had settled, Missouri had scored five runs on five hits.
The deficit was too large for New Mexico State to overcome, in the final inning and the Tigers walked away with the comeback victory.
The win advances the Tigers to the next round of the Tucson Regional where they will face Louisville at 6 p.m. on Sunday.