Dane Opel finished a homer shy of the cycle with five RBI on Saturday.
May 26, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - In the final scheduled meeting between Mizzou and Kansas in any sport, the Mizzou baseball team run-ruled the seventh-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, 12-2, in eight innings in the semifinal round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark on Saturday (May 26). The win advances the Tigers to their third Big 12 Tournament title game in four years and their second straight as they will square off against fourth-seeded Oklahoma tomorrow at 1 p.m. A win in tomorrow's title game would be the first Big 12 Tournament title in program history.
"I was real pleased with our focus and effort throughout the ball game," head coach Tim Jamieson, who will coach in his fourth Big 12 Championship game tomorrow, said. "Offensively we never really gave them much hope. We're playing our best baseball right now and that's where we want to be. I thought we were pretty intense today; it was a tournament game to extend our season. I thought our guys were very intense."
Several Tigers had huge games at the plate, highlighted by junior outfielder Dane Opel, who went 3-for-5 with five RBI and three runs scored as he finished a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. Senior catcher Ben Turner also had a great day, going 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBI while junior Michael McGraw went 3-for-5 with three RBI and a run scored.
Tiger starter John Miles was shaky to begin the game, but senior reliever Jeff Emens came on and continued his dominance in the tournament with another brilliant outing as he earned his third win of the season after throwing the final 3.2 innings, allowing just one hit without a walk while striking out five. In the Big 12 Tournament, Emens' has thrown 7.1 innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out 11 batters. In fact, the Tiger pitching staff has given up just four earned runs in three games of the Big 12 Tournament while allowing just 24 base runners in 26.0 innings while limiting the opposition to just a .178 batting average.
Mizzou got on the board early on Saturday as it posted a two spot in the bottom of the first inning, following a nine-pitch top of the first by Miles. Blake Brown tallied a one-out walk and then stole second base - his 15th of the season - and then Turner knocked him in with a double into left field. McGraw then tallied a two-out double to left to score Turner, giving Mizzou the 2-0 lead.
Miles came back out in the second and retired the first batter on one pitch before struggling with his command. In fact, he walked a pair of batters while throwing 20 pitches in the inning before getting the final out of the frame. That sent the game to the bottom of the second, which Scott Sommerfeld led off with a four-pitch walk. He advanced to second on an error and then Dillon Everett walked to put two men on with no outs. KU starter Tanner Poppe was lifted at that point after throwing just 15 strikes in 37 pitches.
Eric Garcia bunted the runners over and then Brown was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out for Turner. He ripped a ball back up the middle, but it was snared by KU shortstop Kevin Kuntz, who then doubled off Everett at second base, to complete the double play, getting KU out of the jam.
The Jayhawks then carried that momentum into the top of the third inning as Tucker Tharp hit a solo shot into the bullpen in left field, cutting the lead to 2-1. Miles walked two more batters after the bomb and his day was done in favor of Ryan Yuengel, who pitched the Tigers out of the third inning. The Tigers then responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third as Andreas Plackis tallied a sacrifice fly before Scott Sommerfeld posted a two-out, RBI single, putting Mizzou on top, 4-1, headed to the fourth.
In the fifth, KU's Tharp again put together a clutch at-bat as he tallied a two-out single into center after an eight-pitch at-bat, cutting the Tiger lead to 4-2. That unearned run came off of Yuengel, who struggled to throw strikes in the inning. But once again, Mizzou responded with a run of its own, again on a single by Turner, scoring Garcia who walked and stole second base before advancing to third on a fly-out by Brown. That made the score 5-2 headed to the fifth.
The Tigers then broke the game open in the sixth and eighth innings, scoring four and three runs as Opel tallied the big hits in each inning. He had a bases-loaded, three-RBI double in the sixth and then had a two-run triple and scored the game-clinching run on a sacrifice fly by McGraw.
The Tigers will play the Sooners for their first Big 12 Tournament title at 1 p.m. on Sunday (May 27). Lefty Rob Zastryzny will be on the mound for Mizzou while OU will start Damien Magnifico. The game will air live on FSN. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MUTigerBaseball.
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