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April 15, 2011If Missouri was looking for an early sign that its eight-game losing streak would end Friday night, it certainly didn't come in the top of the first inning.
On the second play of the game, Tiger third baseman Conner Mach fielded a ground ball and threw across the diamond to first baseman Scott Sommerfeld.
The ball hit the dirt, scooted past Sommerfeld and went into foul territory. The Jayhawk runner made it to second and eventually scored to give Kansas a 1-0 lead and send the Tigers on their way to a 8-3 loss.
In prolonged losing streaks, even the routine plays can go wrong.
"It's hard to get your mind off the losses," Missouri starter Rob Zastryzny said. "You keep thinking positive, and the more times we lose the harder it gets."
The defeat drops Missouri to 13-20 overall and 1-8 in conference, a mark good for last place in the Big 12. The Tigers' nine-game losing streak is tied for the longest in program history.
Repetitive losing breeds a heightened awareness of the future's potential. The mind is drawn to that next instance when current frustration becomes a memory.
When all seems to be going wrong, the Tigers are taking solace in the nature of baseball: the ability to come right back and makes things different tomorrow.
Right now, it's the best they can do. It's all they can do.
"You got to come with the right attitude every day," designated hitter Jonah Schmidt said. "Tomorrow we're 0-0 and that's kind of the approach we're taking during the skid. That's the greatest thing about baseball, there's always tomorrow. After you have a bad loss, who says you can't turn it around tomorrow?"
But what's happening to Missouri right now isn't purely mental. The streak is having a disastrous effect on the Tigers' place in the conference standings. Every other team has more than one conference win and Missouri's overall win total is also the lowest in the Big 12.
"It's tough to deal with because every loss now makes it that much harder for us to climb out of the hole," coach Tim Jamieson said.
It wasn't all despair for the Tigers on Friday night, however. Missouri briefly tied the game at 1-1 in the third before the Jayhawks answered with single runs in the fourth and fifth, then chased Zastryzny with three in the sixth.
The Tigers teased with rallies late in the game, but couldn't make a run. Missouri managed to load the bases with no outs in the eighth, but three strikeouts ended the rally with only one run scored.
The big hits rarely come when a team is in the midst of a losing streak. At this point, Jamieson is looking for anything to break the Tigers' malaise.
"Right now, we're at the stage where somebody needs to go up there - and I don't care if a guy drops a ball, I don't care if it's a windblown home run, a guy gets jammed and a ball falls in - whatever it takes right now, we need something positive to happen in one of those situations," Jamieson said.
"I think if that happens, everybody will take a big sigh of relief."