Collazo's homer lifts Texas A&M to Big 12 crown
Monday, May 30, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Andrew Collazo picked an opportune time for his first home run of the season, creating a bit of championship deja vu for Texas A&M.
Collazo hit a game-ending homer into the left-field bleachers with two outs in the 10th inning Sunday, lifting the Aggies to a 10-9 victory over Missouri and their second straight Big 12 tournament title.
It's the second straight year Texas A&M claimed the title with a game-winning homer in the 10th. Brodie Greene provided the theatrics with a two-run shot in last year's game.
"There's not a better way to win," coach Rob Childress said.
Collazo pumped his fist as he rounded the bases and was mobbed as he jumped onto home plate with the winning run, getting overwhelmed by the blazing afternoon heat in the process.
Collazo's throwing error had opened the door for Missouri to take a 9-8 lead in the ninth inning, but the Aggies (42-18) tied it on pinch hitter Gregg Alcazar's chop single with two outs in the ninth before winning it in the 10th.
"Once they went ahead, I was down and my teammates kept picking me up in the dugout, saying it wasn't over," Collazo said.
The loss denied Missouri (27-32) a shot at making the NCAA tournament field despite a losing record. The Tigers rebounded from a 1-8 start in league play to earn the last spot in the Big 12 tournament, then nearly became the first No. 8 seed to win it all.
"It hurts," coach Tim Jamieson said. "We put a lot of effort into it and you see it finally come together like it can and these guys are a good enough team to keep playing.
"Unfortunately, we got off to a slow start."
Jonah Schmidt had a two-run double to the corner in left in the first inning, then smacked another to deep center in Missouri's four-run second inning. The Tigers then loaded the bases with one out in the third but failed to build on their 6-0 lead and put A&M away.
After the Aggies took their first lead on Matt Juengel's single in the fourth, Missouri's Conner Mach tied it at 7 with a home run just inside the left-field foul pole in the seventh.
The Tigers rallied again after shortstop Jesse Santo's fielding blunder — trying to outrace Adam Smith to second base instead of flipping the ball over for an inning-ending force-out — let A&M go ahead again in the bottom of the seventh.
Collazo threw wildly into right field on a potential double-play grounder to third, and Blake Brown followed with a run-scoring groundout to tie it at 8. Santo's line-drive single to center provided the go-ahead run, but the Tigers couldn't close it out.
Scott Arthur pinch-ran for Jacob House with two outs in the ninth and stole second before coming around to score on Alcazar's high-bouncing base hit to left field.
"The guys hung in there and regrouped and we were one strike away from playing in a regional," Jamieson said.
Collazo then made up for his bad throw with a rare homer run off of Dusty Ross (3-5).
"I'm just really proud of the toughness that our team showed this week. We didn't play our best baseball in three of the four games, but they never quit. They kept coming," Childress aid.
"For Andrew, I think it's just kind of fitting. You make an error in the ninth inning and you've got your head down, and everybody hates you," Childress added. "And then he's the one that's the hero today."
Nick Fleece (6-1) gave up two runs over the final 2 2-3 innings for A&M, stranding three runners in scoring position.
The early deficit hardly rattled Texas A&M, which had trailed 5-0 in two of its previous three victories at the tournament. Collazo used a head-first slide into home to score one of the Aggies' four unearned runs in a five-run third inning to make it a game again.
"This team never quits," said Kevin Gonzalez, who had a game-ending single in the 11th inning in Texas A&M's 9-8 win Saturday against Kansas State.
"We always find a way. We play for each other, not for anybody else. Even though it might be the last out of the game, we're going to battle to the end."
It ended a storybook run for Missouri, which beat top-seeded Texas twice to get to the title game — getting seven shutout innings from Kelly Fick in his first start since last year's Big 12 tournament to advance Saturday night.
Fick wore the same number — 21 — that was on a jersey damaged in last week's deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., that hung in the Tigers' dugout for inspiration. Missouri was trying to win its first conference tournament title since 1980 in the Big Eight.
Texas A&M was one of 16 host sites for NCAA regionals that were announced Sunday. On Monday, the Aggies will find out if they also earned a top-eight seed.
"We certainly have done everything that we set out to do to give ourselves an opportunity for a top-eight national seed," Childress said. "If we get it, great. If we don't, it really doesn't matter unless you win that regional.
"We've earned the opportunity to play at home in the post season, at least in the first round. There's not much more we can do. The rest of it is about going out and playing."
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