Missouri pitchers stifled Southern Mississippi’s offense for the series win over the weekend.
The Tigers’ three starters were effective, finishing with a combined line of 17.1 innings while allowing five earned runs. Riding off the starting pitching, the bullpen locked down the Golden Eagles, throwing 9.2 shutout innings.
“It’s huge,” senior closer Keaton Steele said. “We’re a really close group. Even aside from the team as a whole, the pitching staff is even tighter. We have each other’s backs 100 percent.”
Steele contributed three of those innings, adding two saves to his total of four. Sophomore Breckin Williams hurled 2.2 innings and only allowed a single baserunner.
“Our pitching staff was resilient and just battled,” senior righthander Eric Anderson said. “We didn’t make it easy for them, and (we) got out of a lot of jams.”
Despite the good pitching, Missouri (6-7) wasn’t satisfied with just the series win. The Tigers took the first two games but dropped the third, a 2-1 decision.
“We wanted that sweep,” Anderson said. “That’s why our clubhouse is a little disappointed right now. Especially with the way we played. It was sloppy baseball. If we get beat straight up that’s one thing, but we beat ourselves a little bit.”
The Tigers stole four bases in addition to two hit-and-run plays in the first two games. Three runners were thrown out on the bases in the finale, when the team scored just one run.
The defense was inconsistent, as it recorded several good plays but also made nine errors, six of which came Sunday. Freshman shortstop Ryan Howard brought his early struggles home with five errors, the first of which came on the second hitter of the series.
“It’s disappointing because the thing we wanted to do was at least come out of this weekend and have a pretty good idea for conference play starting, but now the infield is kind of back to square one,” coach Tim Jamieson said.
Senior first baseman Kendall Keeton continued to be productive, tallying four hits, a walk and three runs in the series. He has reached base safely in every game this season. The rest of the offense for Missouri was able to effectively work the count for the series, drawing 12 walks and forcing the opposition into high pitch counts.
“The coaches have been hammering that home; at two strikes, you’ve gotta battle,” Anderson said. “Even if you strike out, if you see four, five pitches, that’s a productive at-bat because the pitcher has had to work hard. I think we did a lot better job of that as a team.”
The Tigers will end their two-game home series against Alcorn State (1-15) on Wednesday. On Friday, Missouri will open conference play against Baseball America’s No. 22 Tennessee (14-1).