Baseball blows out Western Illinois in home opener

Every starter recorded a hit before the rain cut the game short.
Missouri sophomore pitcher Ryan Clubb pitches during the season home opener against Western Illinois on Wednesday at Taylor Stadium. Missouri beat the Leathernecks, 10-3.

The Missouri baseball team played its first game this season Wednesday night under the lights of Taylor Stadium, pounding Western Illinois 10-3 before rain ended the game in the top of the eighth inning.

Every Tiger who started recorded a hit and five players drove in multiple runs for the win. Junior left-hander Kelly Fick earned his first win of the season as Missouri improved to 5-5 overall.

Western Illinois struck early, as Missouri's first pitch was blasted off the glove of freshman centerfielder Blake Brown to put the Leathernecks in scoring position. A double drove in the runner, but after that, it was all Tigers.

Missouri answered back in the bottom of the inning, scoring six runs on seven hits before the second out was made. The Tigers went all the way through their batting order before Western Illinois changed for senior right-hander Randon Lingle to end the inning.

Coach Tim Jamieson said he liked his team's response to the early deficit and knew the six-run cushion later helped his pitchers.

"It was important to answer right back in the first inning," Jamieson said. "It helps you relax, no matter how many games you play. It helped Clubb out a little bit, too. He got hit hard in the first inning. Then after the six runs he just settled down and pitched a lot better the second inning."

Sophomore right-hander Ryan Clubb, in his first start of the season, struck one out and allowed no hits in the second inning after giving way to the unearned run. On the other end, Lingle subdued the Tigers as both teams posted two scoreless innings after a busy first.

The Missouri bats came back to life in the fourth inning, sparked by freshman pinch hitter Eric Garcia's double-down the left-field line. Two pitching changes and one hit-by-pitch later, Western Illinois had given up four runs. Senior shortstop Michael Liberto capped off the scoring in the inning with a single up the middle that drove in two.

As one of two seniors, the shortstop said he hopes to set a good example for the underclassmen.

"It's kind of weird because I'm shorter than everybody still," Liberto said with a laugh. "But you just try to show the right example and lead by it."

Joining Liberto in the senior class is first baseman Aaron Senne, who plated twice in the victory and is tied for first on the team in runs scored. Senne recognized his leadership role but said all the players are really on the same level.

"I'm a little more of a leader, but at the same time I'm still another teammate," Senne said. "I'm going out doing the same thing that I would expect the rest of the team to do for me. Just fight and play hard and give everything we have."

After the Tigers increased their lead to nine in the fourth inning, the Leathernecks showed signs of life in seventh. Missouri freshman pitcher Neil Hugenberg gave up two runs on three batters faced.

The 10-3 score going into the eighth became the final score after a lightning delay led to a cancellation.

Jamieson addressed his ever-changing lineup and was confident in the depth of his squad.

"It was a different lineup tonight," Jamieson said. "This was game No. 10 and lineup No. 10. Ideally we'd like to have a lot of people involved. Tonight was a good indication of that, and we're optimistic that we can do that."

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