By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Further evidence that the regular season becomes meaningless when the postseason begins.
No. 8 seed Missouri started play in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship with an impressive 7-3 victory over No. 1 seed Texas Wednesday at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. The Longhorns had dominated conference play, winning 24 of 27 games and had won 28 of their last 29 games. Three of the UT victories came last weekend when it swept the Tigers in Columbia.
Missouri took command in the top of the third inning. Trailing 1-0 after Kevin Lusson’s 13th home run gave Texas the lead, the Tigers responded with a lead off walk and single. After a sacrifice moved the runners to second and third, Big 12 co-player of the year Aaron Senne roped a double off the wall in right field.
Provided with a lead, Missouri starter Nick Tepesch was outstanding. He evened his record at 6-6 with a complete game. He threw 134 pitches.
“It was real important to finish the game,” he said. “It saves everyone else for the games coming up. I felt just as good in the ninth as I did in the first.”
The Tigers added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings thanks to Longhorns charity. A leadoff walk became a run when Michael Liberto came through with a two-out running scoring single and a two-run error by Lusson to start the fifth produced a run when Eric Garcia singled to right.
Texas coach Augie Garrido opted to start freshman left hander Hoby Milner. He was victimized by the Tigers’ ability to capitalize on their opportunities. He went four innings and allowed six hits, four runs and walked three. Milner and three relievers combined to walk seven and throw 179 pitches.
“It was a big difference, a lot of guys today were falling behind in the count,” Senne said of not facing one of UT’s three top starters. “We were patient and waited on the right pitch to hit.”
Texas fell victim to a handful of “at ‘em” balls – hard-hit shots that found their way into the Tigers’ gloves. Missouri also rolled three double plays – two of which erased lead-off runners.
The Longhorns will face No. 5 seed Texas Tech at 3 p.m. – both teams lost their openers. The Tigers will face No. 4 seed Texas A&M at 7:30 p.m.
For Texas, this is a familiar pattern. This is the sixth time the Longhorns have been a No. 1 seed and they’ve lost their opener four times. That’s what happened in 2009 but UT came back to win the title.
The loss put Garrido in a philosophical mood.
“It’s one of the reasons I like the game of baseball as much as I do,” he said. “On any given day the team that handles the fundamentals of the game the best and the principles of the game and the core values of the game can win.”