OKLAHOMA CITY – A Chinese philosopher once said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Missouri doesn’t have to cover a thousand miles here at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship. But to reach the NCAA tournament, the eighth-seeded Tigers have to win the tournament and the Conference’s automatic bid. Mizzou started its journey with a 6-4 victory over top-seeded Texas Wednesday at RedHawks Field.
Missouri (25-30) will face No. 4 seed Oklahoma State, a 6-2 winner over Baylor, at 4 p.m. Thursday in a winners bracket game in the four-team Division One. The Longhorns (40-14) will meet the Bears (29-25) at 9 a.m. Thursday. The loser of that game goes home.
"(Our mentality) has been pretty good for a while," said Missouri coach Tim Jamieson, whose team started 2-9 in Big 12 play. "I think we were confident. Guys believe that they’re going to play well, and they know that gives them a chance to win.
"This gives us a chance to know that we’re going to play at least two more games. It gives us a chance to keep playing until Sunday. We realize that’s what we have to do. We have to keep winning to keep playing."
Texas coach Augie Garrido, for the second consecutive year in this event, chose not to start the Big 12 pitcher of the year in Game One. Last year he skipped Cole Green and Missouri won 7-3. This year, Garrido went with Nathan Thornhill instead of Taylor Jungmann.
However, he chose not to point to pitching for his team’s defeat.
"We batted nine times, and scored four runs," Garrido said. "You don't have to lose when the other team has six (runs). There are ways to overcome that."
Missouri scored in the top of the first and the teams traded single runs for a 3-3 deadlock through five innings. In the top of the sixth with two outs, the Tigers broke the game open.
Singles by leadoff hitter Connor Mach and Eric Garcia sandwiched a walk to Brannon Champagne. Garcia’s infield hit was playable but UT’s Jordan Etier couldn’t handle the chance that would have resulted in the third out.
Designated hitter Jonah Schmidt cleared the bases and gave the Tigers a 6-3 lead with a double into the left-centerfield gap.
"I was just looking to see (a pitch) up, put a good swing on it and not try to do too much with it," Schmidt said. "That’s when I get in trouble, if I try to do too much with a pitch I can handle."
Eric Anderson pitched a career-high seven innings as Missouri’s starter. Phil McCormick worked the final two innings for his seventh save. They worked around 11 hits and three walks as the Longhorns left 10 men on base.
"I was just trying to get ahead of hitters and let them get themselves out," Anderson said.
"There was a while when my stuff wasn’t very good, but if you have the mentality to just go after people, you’re usually able to work through those situations."