After a long, emotional day of baseball, Missouri coach Tim Jamieson summed up the Tigers’ doubleheader against Ball State bluntly: “We won the second game.” Ball State and Missouri split the two games, with the Cardinals winning the first game 14-5 and the Tigers winning the second 18-4.
Ball State set the tone in the first game by banging out five straight hits to begin the game off Missouri starter Kelly Fick, who struggled with location in his abbreviated outing. Fick was unable to keep his pitches low in the strike zone, and as a result, Ball State’s hitters teed off on the sophomore left-hander. He lasted just 1.2 innings and was chased from the game after allowing a towering two-run home run to Ball State’s Kory Benbow, which plated the sixth and seventh earned runs of the day charged to Fick. “He’s got to make better pitches,” Jamieson said rather bluntly. “He has to finish at-bats, and he didn’t do it.”
After Fick’s early exit, Missouri cycled through seven pitchers trying to find an effective reliever to stop the bleeding. Ryan Gargano threw two shutout innings in relief, but his work was sandwiched around outings by Ryan Clubb and Ryan Allen in which both pitchers allowed two earned runs. Andrew Mueller also allowed three earned runs in two innings of work after replacing Fick in the second inning.
All in all, Ball State’s lineup collected 23 hits, took seven walks, and was hit by two pitches for a total of 32 baserunners and 14 runs against Missouri’s pitching in the first game. Conversely, Missouri’s offense mustered 10 hits, four walks, and two hit batters but could only score five runs. The Tigers left 14 men on base in the game, continuing a trend that plagued the team for much of the 2009 season.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Missouri came out more aggressive at the plate and posted their best offensive game of the season. After leaving double-digit men on base in the first two games of the four-game series against Ball State, Missouri left just nine men on base in the third game despite reaching base 27 times.
Missouri’s aggressiveness at the plate was a product of the fire that the team brought to the second game. “We had a lot of fire in us from the first game, so we were a little more angry and wanted to take it to them,” Greg Folgia said.
“We weren’t going to let somebody come in and beat us twice at home, so we had to make a statement in the second game,” Steve Gray added.
The top of the Tigers was almost perfect in setting the table for the middle, as Folgia reached base five times and Conner Mach four to set up the meat of the Missouri order. Ryan Lollis drove in three runs, Aaron Senne two, and Coleman four—two of which came on a home run—to give Ian Berger and Ryan Clark a more than comfortable lead with which to pitch.
Berger, who had struggled in his previous two starts in 2009, threw the ball much better in five innings of work in game two. While he only lasted five innings thanks to a bloated pitch count, Berger struck out nine batters while allowing three earned runs on five hits and four walks. “That’s a different Ian Berger than we’ve seen this year,” said Jamieson. It was more like the guy we’ve had the last couple of years—on the attack, aggressive, and confident.”
Berger announced his presence on the mound by challenging Ball State’s hitters inside with his fastball and mixing in first-pitch offspeed pitches, which Berger noticed Ball State’s hitters did not hit in the first game of the doubleheader.
Clark threw three crucial scoreless innings out of the Tigers bullpen that burned seven pitchers in the first game. While Missouri still had several pitchers available, Clark’s work will allow Scooter Hicks and Brad Buehler to pitch with a day’s rest for tomorrow’s series finale.