Missouri (21-24, 6-16 Southeasten Conference) played a top-25 team close, but came up short of a win in an 8-3 loss to Vanderbilt (34-12, 12-10 SEC).
That result has become a continuing theme for the Tigers, who have managed to play powers such as Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Vandy tight before fading late. This game was no different, as they led through five innings but were unable to close it out.
Also similar to many others, the contest was billed as a pitching duel between two talented junior righties.
But neither of Brett Graves nor Tyler Beede were able to throw six full innings, and there was offense to be had.
Missouri demonstrated this early, striking in the second and third innings for three runs and the lead. Two walks and a single juiced the bases with no outs, and after a strikeout, freshman center fielder Jake Ring lifted a ball into left for first blood.
Only reaping that one run from such a ripe opportunity had to be disappointing, though. Especially when the Commodores came right back to tie the game the following inning.
“If you’ve got the bases loaded, you like somebody to put one into the gap,” coach Tim Jamieson said. “But with good pitchers like that, you walk away saying, ‘At least we scored one.’ We’ve loaded the bases lots of times and not scored anything.”
Beede went five innings, struck out seven, allowed seven hits, and walked two.
Graves retired the first two batters in the third with ease and went up 0-2 on the third, but hit him with the third pitch. A pair of singles exploited the mistake and tied the game at one.
“I was trying to throw a back-foot curve,” Graves said, “and I literally back-foot curved it. I’ll try not to do that next time.”
This was a microcosm of the uncharacteristically wild night for Graves, who did not walk a batter but had three wild pitches and the hit batsman.
He also struggled to put the opposition away, with no strikeouts in spite of running 10 two-strike counts. In those situations, the Commodore bats managed five hits off Graves.
This was most evident in the pivotal sixth inning. A leadoff single came on a 1-2 count, a run-scoring double on 0-2, and the single that knocked him from the game was also 1-2.
The Commodores took a 5-3 lead that inning and continued to attack the bullpen, scoring three more in the eighth to crush the Tiger resistance.
“They battled,” Graves said about the opposition. “You’ve gotta give them credit, but I don’t know. I just didn’t have the big pitch when I needed it.”
The teams will square off again in Columbia on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.