Locked in a back-and-forth battle Sunday afternoon with the No. 25 Texas Longhorns, the Missouri baseball team found itself approaching extra innings in what would be the final league series Taylor Stadium would host with the Tigers as Big 12 Conference members before being a part of the Southeastern Conference next year.
Still tied at six in the bottom of the 11th inning, freshman pinch hitter Case Munson stepped to the plate looking to end it.
He did just that with a deep sacrifice fly that sent tagging sophomore Dillon Everett to home plate. The Tigers (25-22, 9-12 Big 12) won the game 7-6, delivering the Longhorns’ second conference series defeat of the season.
Junior pitcher Blake Holovach started at the mound for the Tigers but didn’t last long. Holovach surrendered a 1-0 lead in the third, and was replaced by freshman pitcher John Miles after loading the bases. Miles induced a fly out to get the Tigers out of the jam, stranding three Longhorns on base.
“Our pitching staff has come up big when we’ve needed them to this year,” freshman reliever Brett Graves said. “Today was definitely one of them.”
After the Longhorns tallied another run in the fourth inning, the Tigers responded in the bottom of the frame when junior outfielder Dane Opel smashed a three-run home run over the right field fence, clearing the nearby trees. Later in the inning, junior Scott Sommerfeld singled to center and later came around to score, changing the score to 4-2.
The Tigers had expanded their lead to 6-3 by the time the eighth inning rolled around. It was an inning that would prove to be unfriendly for Missouri, as the Longhorns loaded the bases with senior Dusty Ross pitching. They eventually tied the game at six on a bases-loaded single before senior Jeff Emens took over the mound to record the last out of the inning.
The score remained tied at six heading into extra innings, and Graves kept it that way at the top of the 11th frame. In the bottom of the inning, Everett notched a quick single with one out. Then, Texas committed two errors off the bat of Ben Turner, which advanced Everett to third. With runners on the corners, Munson shot a deep fly ball to center, driving in Everett for the game-winning run.
“It felt good,” Munson said. “I just tried to get the ball in the outfield, just tried to put the bat on it so we could try to get a guy to tag and score. Once I hit it and I saw it go up I kind of got a little excited because I saw the outfielder going back a little bit.”
The back-and-forth battle seemingly epitomized the entire series against the Longhorns, a series that was determined by a two-score game and a one-score game, respectively, before the finale.
“We just battled the whole time,” Munson said. “We had guys fighting every inning. Our pitchers went out and did a fantastic job battling the whole game.”
For coach Tim Jamieson, the most important aspect of the series moving forward was seeing his team compete.
“I just think coming out three days in a row and competing – they haven’t done that all year,” he said. “They should learn from the feeling they have right now. Not just the wins, but the effort. It’s a little late in the season for that lesson, but at the same time, we’ve got a lot of baseball ahead of us.”
The Tigers will host Missouri State at 6 p.m. May 9 at Taylor Stadium.