By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said his team had twice been jinxed by clothing.
In 2004, Missouri couldn't hold a lead in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship game and lost to Oklahoma State in 13 innings. Last year, the Tigers were within a strike of beating Texas A&M but lost on a 10th-inning walk-off home run.
Both times, Jamieson noticed the folks who distribute the hats and t-shirts to the winners lurking near the Missouri dugout before the scoreboard flipped against his team.
In the Tigers' final opportunity, they finally got to wear the swag that goes to the champ. Missouri let two leads get away before going ahead for good in the eighth inning to take an 8-7 victory over Oklahoma Sunday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Tigers (32-26) also earned the Big 12 automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and their postseason destination will be announced Monday.
"It's never easy and this was a tough way to do it," Jamieson said moments after giving his wife Cindy an emotional hug. "It's been a long time coming and you don't think it's gonna happen. This was a tough environment today, tough to hold a lead. We've been here before ... but it's never easy."
Missouri jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first with Ben Turner driving home two with a single. The Sooners (38-22) pulled to within 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth but the Tigers scored three in the top of the fifth. Second baseman Dillon Everett plunked a two-out, full-count single to short right to drive in the first two runs.
The Tigers' lead could have been larger but in the second inning, Eric Garcia tried to score from second on Turner's single to right. Garcia failed to touch home plate and was eventually tagged out by OU catcher Tanner Toal.
Oklahoma answered with three in the fifth and two more in the sixth to tie it at 7-7.
"I thought it was a terrific game," OU coach Sunny Golloway said. "A 7 to 2 deficit and we come back ... I thought when it was 7-7, it was going to take a special effort out of their dugout to win it and they did it."
The sixth-inning rally was short circuited by base running mistakes that plagued the Sooners over the final innings.
Garrett Carey, the home run hero in OU's opener, drove in two runs in the sixth. But when Erik Ross singled to right, Carey rounded second too far and was picked off. In the seventh, Caleb Bushyhead tried to score from first on Matt Oberste's double to right center from Dane Opel to Everett to Turner relayed to get the out.
"Great throw by Dillon on that relay," said Turner, a senior. "This means everything to the seniors, it means a lot to coach Jamieson to win this and get back to the NCAAs. The way Oklahoma kept coming back it reminded me of the Texas A&M game last year."
In the top of the eighth, the Sooners couldn't handle Missouri's small ball. Blake Brown led off with a single. Turner's sacrifice bunt was fielded by pitcher Steven Okert, who threw to second to try to get Brown. The throw skipped into center with Brown going to third and Turner to second. After a walk, Opel grounded into a double play with Brown scoring the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the ninth, Oklahoma put the leadoff man on, bunted him to second and after a walk had the winning run at first. After Oberste popped out, Chase Simpson pinch hit for Toal. His grounder through the right side hit Bushyhead and went on through to Opel in right. His throw home beat pinch runner Dustin Dishman and Turner applied the tag even though it was moot.
"I thought I saw it hit the runner," Turner said. "Dane made a great throw. Either way, we got the last out. That's all that matters."
Oklahoma was in the Championship game for the first time since 1997, when the Sooners won the trophy.
"I know it's been since 1997," Golloway said. Nobody wanted it more than we did."
How The Runs Scored
Missouri 1st: Eric Garcia reached first on error by shortstop Caleb Bushyhead. Blake Brown ground rule double to left center, Garcia to third. Ben Turner singles to center, Garcia, Brown scored. Dane Opel walked. Dillon Overton replaced Oklahoma starter Damien Magnifico. Michael McGraw singled to center, Turner scored, Opel to third, McGraw advanced to second on throwing error by center fielder Max White. Andreas Plackis grounded out to second, Opel scored, McGraw to third. Missouri 4, Oklahoma 0.
Oklahoma 2nd: With two outs, Matt Oberste homered to center field. Missouri 4, Oklahoma 1.
Oklahoma 4th: Max White led off with a single. Evan Mistich reached on fielder's choice, advanced to second on wild push. Mistich scored on single to center by Caleb Bushyhead. Missouri 4, Oklahoma 2.
Missouri 5th: Dane Opel singled with one out. Michael McGraw singled, Opel to second. Andreas Plackis singled to load the bases. With two outs, Dillon Everett singled to right, Opel and McGraw scored, Plackis to third. Steven Okert to pitch for Dillon Overton. Eric Garcia singled to left, Plackis scored. Missouri 7, Oklahoma 2.
Oklahoma 5th: With one out, Garrett Carey doubled down the left field line. Erik Ross walked, Carey to second. Jeff Emens in to pitch for Rob Zastryzny. Cody Reine walked, Carey to third, Ross to second. Max White safe at first on fielder's choice, Carey out at home, Ross to third, Reine to second. Evan Mistich doubled to right center, Ross and Reine scored, White to third. White scored on wild pitch. Missouri 7, Oklahoma 5.
Oklahoma 6th: Caleb Bushyhead singled to right. Matt Oberste walked, Bushyhead to second. Tanner Toal sacrifice bunted, Bushyhead to third, Oberste to second. Garrett Carey singled to center, Bushyhead and Oberste scored. Erik Ross singled to right, Carey out at second after over running the bag, right field to second baseman. Missouri 7, Oklahoma 7.
Missouri 8th: Blake Brown singled to center. Ben Turner safe at first on sacrifice bunt, throw to second on bunt into center field, Brown to third, Turner to second on throw to third. Dane Opel grounded into double play, Brown scored. Missouri 8, Oklahoma 7.
DH - Matt Oberste, Oklahoma
C - Josh Ludy, Baylor
1B - Evan Mistich, Oklahoma
2B - Jack Mayfield, Oklahoma
SS - Eric Garcia, Missouri (Most Outstanding Player)
3B - Matt Juengel, Texas A&M
OF - Dane Opel, Missouri
OF - Blake Brown, Missouri
OF - Tyler Naquin, Texas A&M
P - Dillon Overton, Oklahoma
P - Steven Okert, Oklahoma
P - Jeff Emens, Missouri