It was a surreal moment, unimaginable only an hour earlier.
Yet, here was Southern Illinois-Edwardsville center fielder Dustin Woodcock striding to the plate, representing the go-ahead run against Missouri with two outs in the ninth inning Tuesday at Taylor Stadium.
The Tigers built a 9-0 lead in the first four innings, but the Cougars pieced together a four-run rally in the fifth inning and added single runs in the eighth and ninth.
SIU-Edwardsville now had the bases loaded and Missouri coach Tim Jamieson, who had hoped to rest his top-shelf arms during the mid-week nonconference tilt, had been forced to call on left-hander Austin Tribby.
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Tribby, who was demoted from the rotation last week but earned a save Saturday at Arkansas, promptly loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk.
“If that was an SEC game, I would have been freaking out, honestly,” said senior first baseman Zach Lavy, who powered the Tigers’ offense with a triple and three RBIs.
That brought Woodcock to the plate, but he was no match for Tribby, who locked down his second save in four days — and a 9-6 victory — with a three-pitch strikeout.
Mizzou, 18-13, has won three straight games and four of its last five after snapping a six-game skid to open SEC play.
“We kind of took our foot off the accelerator from about the fourth inning on,” Jamieson said of an offense that managed only five hits but benefited from seven walks and one hitter batter.
Missouri jumped in front with a four-run first inning.
Lavy’s triple plated two runs, while sophomore Trey Harris added an RBI single and later scored on a throwing error.
Lavy and junior shortstop Ryan Howard added sacrifice flies in the second inning sandwiched around wild pitch that netted another run.
Sophomore catcher Brett Bond notched a third-inning RBI single and junior center fielder Jake Ring scored on a fourth-inning wild pitch as the Tigers went up 9-0.
Missouri managed only one hit and two baserunners the rest of the way in front of a docile crowd of 332.
“I thought after that fourth inning we were going to score 20 tonight,” junior shortstop Ryan Howard said. “Part of it is just energy too. We go to (Arkansas’) Baum Stadium and there’s a ton of people there and all kinds of energy. Here, we kind of have to manufacture our own energy.”
SIUE, 4-21, took advantage of the lull to make things interesting, but it wasn’t enough to spoil freshman Grant Macciocchi’s collegiate debut. Macciocchi worked two scoreless innings to start the game and was credited with the victory.
Summoning emotion won’t be as difficult Thursday when SEC play resumes with the start of a three-game home series against Auburn, which leapfrogged Missouri at the SEC tourney and snagged the final NCAA regional spot last season.
“We’re a little bit past halfway through the season now, and I feel like this is our window that we need to get things going here,” Howard said. “The college season’s so short and that window closes, so we need to make sure everybody’s ready this weekend.”
Sophomore Bryce Montes De Oca struck out the only batter he faced Feb. 20 against Seton Hall.
It might be the only batter Montes De Oca, a 6-foot-7 right-hander from Lawrence, faces this season after surgery on his pitching elbow last week.
“They moved the nerve in his arm,” Jamieson said.
Montes De Oca will only be shut down for a month before beginning to rehab his right elbow, but that probably still puts him on the shelf for the season.
“By the time he’s ready to throw, we’re talking June,” Jamieson said. “If we’re fortunate enough to be playing late in the year, he might be able to help us again.”