HOOVER, Ala. – It's going to be a long five days for the Missouri baseball team.
The Tigers had a chance to put a statement win on its NCAA Tournament resume Tuesday, but instead head back to Columbia unsure if they'll qualify for their first NCAA Regional appearance since 2012 be left at home. Missouri's recent offensive woes made the trip with the team to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala., as the No. 10 seeded Tigers fell 2-1 to No. 7 Mississippi in the single-elimination portion of the SEC Tournament. Missouri, which left six men on base against the Rebels, is now 2-8 all-time at the SEC Tournament.
“I mean just a tough day for us obviously," MU coach Steve Bieser said in his postgame press conference. "We wanted to go win this game and get ourselves rolling in this conference tournament, but I’m really proud of this team the way they’ve competed all season long. The way they will continue to compete."
Missouri, which entered its contest against Ole Miss with an RPI of 26, sits at 34-22-1 overall and will learn its fate on Selection Monday beginning at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
"Obviously, we wanted to win today and that just seals it," Bieser said. "This is a team that has played 10 conference series. We’ve only lost four of those series in conference play. I like our resume, and I like this team. This is a team that is going to get healthy in the next week. We’re getting one of our starters back. Everything is rolling our way, and we’d be very difficult in a region right there. I feel like our resume is really solid.”
After making his first start of the year against Florida Thursday, Bieser decided to keep pitcher Konnor Ash in the starting rotation against the Rebels. The sophomore right-hander struggled with his control in the first inning, allowing a hit and walking two batters, but a double play and a groundout let him walk away unscathed in the frame.
The Tigers put together a two-out rally in the second, with Thomas Broyles doubling, setting the stage for third baseman Austin James. James was scuffling entering Tuesday, going 1 for his last 10, but the junior came up with a clutch RBI double, scoring Broyles for Missouri’s first and only run of the day.
Ash ran into trouble again in the fourth, facing runners on first and second with one out. A diving catch by Kameron Misner retired Cooper Johnson, then Ash struck Anthony Servideo out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to retire the side. Ash’s day ended after four scoreless innings, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out three batters.
"I didn’t have my best stuff," Ash said. "The defense played great behind me. I just went out there trying to attack. Like I said, my defense played great and that’s about it.”
Missouri had a chance to extend its lead in the fifth inning, but Ole Miss starter Will Ethridge struck Misner out looking on a 3-2 pitch with runners on first and second.
MU pitcher Jacob Cantleberry, as he did last Thursday, relieved Ash in the fifth. Cantleberry was greeted rudely serving up a leadoff double to the Rebels’ nine-hole hitter Jacob Adams. Cantleberry uncorked a wild pitch catcher Chad McDaniel couldn’t initially block, but the sophomore recovered nicely and made a perfect throw to third base beating Adams to third by a few steps. Unfortunately for Missouri, Jacobs missed the tag. One Thomas Dillard double later, and the Rebels drove in the tying run.
After Grae Kessinger sacrificed Dillard to third and Tyler Keenan was hit by a pitch, Cole Zabowski singled in the go-ahead run. Cantleberry induced a double play to end the rally.
Peter Zimmerman had a leadoff single in the sixth inning, but was doubled off two hitters later by center fielder Ryan Olenek.
Second baseman Paul Gomez led off the seventh with a single, but was quickly erased on a double play ball in the next at-bat. Ethridge punched out James with his 101st pitch of the afternoon, closing his line at 7 innings of one run ball. He allowed seven hits, didn’t walk any Missouri batters and struck out six.
Ole Miss reliever Tyler Myers struck out the side in the eighth inning, but Missouri had one last chance in the ninth.