There was once reason to hope that this year’s Missouri Tigers baseball team would be different from last year’s team that finished 26-30 and 9-20 in the Southeastern Conference. After all, a 20 game winning streak to open the season 20-1 tends to breed optimism and inspire confidence.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, those days of optimism appear to be long gone.
The Vanderbilt Commodores took two of three games from Missouri in Nashville, Tennessee this weekend, beating the Tigers 5-2 on Friday and 14-5 on Sunday.
In a series that in many ways mirrored Missouri’s SEC season, the Tigers’ offense once again failed to find consistency against Vanderbilt’s pitching. The Commodores’ hurlers held Missouri to 21 hits and nine runs over the three game series. Missouri also left 17 runners on base during the series, including 10 during Friday’s loss alone.
Head coach Steve Bieser said he was proud of how his team competed offensively on Friday, but was disappointed that they couldn’t drive runners in when they had them on base.
“We were able to come up with hits after getting ourselves competitive at-bats, [but] we just couldn't come up with a big hit when we needed it,” Beiser said.
Since Missouri had its 20 game winning streak snapped in a 9-2 loss to Arkansas on March 24, the team is 9-18. The Tigers have now lost six of their eight conference series this season.
The series was not a complete wash for the Tigers. Although the team still trails Vanderbilt 16-1 in the all-time series between the two teams, the Tigers picked up their first-ever win over the Commodores on Saturday, a thrilling 2-1 win that came largely from junior Tanner Houck’s exceptional pitching performance. Houck went eight innings, struck out nine and allowed no runs.
Beiser said Saturday’s win was huge for his ball club.
“It was an important win for us,” Beiser said. “We had our backs against the wall today and we knew what we needed to do to keep things where we want them this season. We need a strong finish and that's what we're looking to do.”
Missouri will look to start a strong push to postseason play this Friday at home against South Carolina. The Tigers will have to sweep that series in order to overtake South Carolina for fourth place in the SEC East standings.
Edited by Eli Lederman | firstname.lastname@example.org