ST. LOUIS — For a team that had three of its previous four games go into extra innings, it’d seem that the lush grass, even dirt and high definition scoreboards of Busch Stadium would serve as good reasons for Missouri to play beyond the required nine innings.
The Tigers disagreed. Mizzou made quick work of Illinois in the teams’ annual Braggin’ Rights matchup at Busch Stadium, topping the Illini 5-2 in a game that lasted just two hours and 10 minutes.
Mizzou starter John Miles’ day was over even quicker. Miles pitched one inning, giving up two hits and no earned runs.
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said it was planned heading into the game that Miles would pitch just one inning, and would start on Sunday instead of his customary Saturday start.
Jamieson decided that sophomore righty Peter Fairbanks would come on in relief, as what the coach called “second starter.” Jamieson said he decided it was best for a number of reasons, including the fact Fairbanks had success out of the bullpen in the past.
He certainly had success Wednesday.
The St. Louis native went 8 innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs without walking a batter.
“It’s always good to throw eight innings in front of hometown crowds,” Fairbanks said. “I need to think of a different word than good.”
Fairbanks got most of his run support in the middle innings. Missouri scored four of its five runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Tied at one, the Tigers headed to the plate in the top of the fourth having had their side struck out, in order, the previous inning. Much didn’t seem to change when senior catcher Dylan Kelly struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt.
But Kelly ran to first as Illinois catcher Jason Goldstein fielded the wild pitch from the dirt. Goldstein’s throw sailed over the Illinois first baseman’s head, and Kelly got to second base on the error.
“I was kind of angry that I did strike out,” Kelly said. “(I) just played the game … slowly but surely got to second.”
Freshman Ryan Howard would walk in the next at-bat, then Kelly was brought home by sophomore shortstop Josh Lester’s double. A grounder by senior Dillon Everett would follow that up to bring Howard across the plate.
Mizzou would add another two runs in the fifth inning off of a Kelly double, and Fairbanks was cruising. After giving up one run in the second inning, he retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced.
“He was in a rhythm and they weren’t going to hit him,” Kelly said.
The victory puts Missouri past its win total from last season. Jamieson said the feat is “nothing to brag about.”
The Tigers are still last in the Southeastern Conference Eastern division, and will face No. 6 Florida, in Gainesville, Fla., this weekend. The Gators are 10-5 against ranked opponents this year.
For now, Fairbanks will savor his win.
“It’s Busch Stadium,” he said as he faced the Gateway Arch beyond centerfield. “Don’t get much better than that.”