Missouri baseball (31-21, 11-16 Southeastern Conference) played its final home series of the 2017 regular season over the weekend, winning two out of three games against the South Carolina Gamecocks (30-21, 12-15 SEC). It was the Tigers’ first series win since they took two out of three against Georgia from April 6-8.
The biggest storyline of the series revolved around Missouri star freshman reliever TJ Sikkema. After making 19 appearances out of the bullpen in his first season with the Tigers, where he has provided consistency by maintaining an ERA that ranked top 10 in the SEC, Sikkema was chosen by head coach Steve Bieser for Friday’s start. Sikkema became the eighth starter to have taken the mound for Missouri this season, as coach Beiser has struggled to find reliability in his pitching staff this year.
Despite taking a loss, Sikkema showed potential in the maiden start of his career, recording 5.2 innings in which he allowed just three earned runs while striking out five batters.
The Tigers’ bats were quieted by Gamecock starter Wil Crowe, whose 7.0 strong innings almost single handedly won the game for South Carolina.
Missouri showed resiliency that has been seemingly missing for months in a 5-3 victory Saturday.
Batting third for the first time all season, junior Robbie Glendinning had a 2-for-4 day at the plate and recorded a pair of RBIs. The Tigers recorded four runs after the fourth inning to come from behind for the win.
It also didn’t hurt that junior Tanner Houck was prolific on the mound for Missouri.
Fittingly on Mother’s Day weekend, Houck dedicated the start to his mother, who was in attendance Saturday.
“It got me kind of emotional seeing my mom after,” Houck said. “She’s the real reason I’m here, doing everything for me when I was younger. Real emotional seeing her after the game.”
Projected to go early in the MLB draft, Houck hinted that this start was his last start at Taylor Stadium in a Tiger uniform. He wowed the crowd with a complete-game performance, striking out 10 batters en route to the victory.
“I want to do that every time I go out, but it’s even better in possibly my last start at home as a Missouri Tiger,” Houck said after the game.
After missing four games with a shoulder injury, junior Trey Harris returned to the Tigers’ lineup as Missouri completed another late-inning comeback, again winning 5-3.
Paired with a strong performance from junior reliever Andy Toelken out of the Tiger bullpen, junior Brett Bond’s 10th home run of the season helped power Missouri to victory.
After the game, Bieser felt confident moving forward as the postseason approaches. The Tigers’ 30th win clinched them an appearance in the upcoming SEC tournament.
“Our guys are locked in and know that there is still a lot to play for this season,” Bieser said. “Getting a series win here was big and we have a big series next weekend. We’re gonna play hard and see where it leads us to.”
MVP of the Series — Tanner Houck
Despite a 4-7 record, Tanner Houck has been everything Missouri could have hoped for this season. He continued his stellar play Saturday, intimidating hitters with his strong fastball and command. This weekend, Houck looked the part of an esteemed MLB draft prospect.
The Tigers begin the last week of the regular season on Tuesday when they host the Eastern Kentucky Colonels for their last home game of the year. They will then travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, to play the Tennessee Volunteers in their final SEC series of the year.
Edited by Eli Lederman | firstname.lastname@example.org