Missouri baseball is almost a month into the season, and with a record of 3-7, few can say things have gone according to plan. The Tigers started the season with a 0-6 road trip, followed by three straight canceled games due to snowstorms.
But in the last week Missouri has managed to turn things around with a 3-1 record, sweeping Eastern Michigan last Wednesday and going 1-1 against San Francisco over the weekend. So far, all of the team’s wins have been at Taylor Stadium.
After a double-header sweep on Wednesday, Missouri made a statement in its first Friday night home game with a 6-2 win. Junior ace Rob Zastryzny pitched his first complete game since April 2012, throwing 10 strikeouts and allowing only six hits.
“His first inning was rough and that’s how he’s been pitching,” coach Tim Jamieson said. “After that, that’s as good as I’ve seen him pitch since he’s been in this program…you could just sense that when he was out there, as the game went on his confidence was growing and he wanted to be out there.”
Even though he gave up three straight doubles and two runs in the first inning, Zastryzny was able to regain his composure for the rest of the game, a trend that has followed him throughout his Missouri tenure.
“Right after Memphis (Zastryzny gave up 10 hits in a 6-0 loss) I was pretty disappointed in myself," Zastryzny said. "I was a young kid last year and the year before that wanted to prove myself. I guess I took the mindset that I’ve proven myself and now it’s time for me to show what I can do again instead of being the ‘battle-back kid’ I’ve always been. That’s it. That’s the last time I’m going to do that…”
With Zastryzny untouchable for the next four innings, the offense was able to put the Tigers back on top. Junior catcher Dylan Kelly and sophomore outfielder Case Munson both hit 2 for 3 with an RBI. Missouri scored two runs in the third, fifth and eighth innings.
Kelly has been the standout player of the offense, leading the team with a .414 batting average and 5 RBIs. His performance also helped win the starting catcher position.
“He works really hard and has done some really good things,” Jamieson said. “He’s separated himself from the other guys because he does everything really well.”
The Tigers were unable to carry that momentum into Saturday. Just like the night before, Missouri gave up two runs in the top of the first after sophomore Brett Graves gave up three straight hits to start the game.
But this time the offense wasn’t able to put the Tigers back into the game until late. In the bottom of the seventh, Kelly smacked a double up the middle, bringing in senior outfielder Dane Opel to tie the game 2-2. Two batters later, freshman infielder Josh Lester hit a sacrifice fly to bring Kelly in for the 3-2 lead.
It didn’t last. In the final frame of the game, the Dons compiled five runs off of four hits and two errors from the Tigers to win it 8-3.
Jamieson pointed out what’s been killing the team in each loss.
“We have made some strides this week at home. … our goal every weekend is to win a series, but you don’t want beat yourselves,” Jamieson said. “Just about every loss we’ve had, we haven’t been beaten. We’ve beaten ourselves.”
The Tigers host Jackson State on Tuesday, Truman State on Wednesday and begin their first game of Southeastern Conference play against No. 6 South Carolina on Friday.