Baseball wins first home series

Pitcher Tepesch and designated hitter Mach stand out.

With a come-from-behind 7-6 victory on Sunday, the Missouri Tigers baseball team won three games of the four-game series against the Ball State Cardinals. As a team searching for confidence before Big 12 play begins, a series win goes a long way.

"First of all, it gives more confidence to (Sunday's starting pitcher) Nick Tepesch," coach Tim Jamieson said. "Secondly, more confidence in our bullpen to know we can hold onto a small lead late in the game. And finally, just the overall team confidence. They recognize that we're not playing our best baseball yet, and we're able to win three out of four, and they are a pretty good baseball team."

Although his line does not show it, Tepesch pitched very well except for three mistakes. The Cardinals belted three home runs off the sophomore, one of which was the result of the strong wind. In six and two-thirds innings, Tepesch gave up five runs on eight hits, but also struck out 12 batters and earned his first win on the season.

"Other than the three home runs, I thought I pitched pretty well," he said. "I'm sure the wind had something to do with it, but it looked like two of the three would have gone out either way."

Another problem the team has consistently faced is a sluggish offense. Cardinal sophomore pitcher Kolbrin Vitek was working on a no-hitter through four innings.

Senior Kyle Mach led off the fifth with a single and came around to score after junior left fielder Greg Folgia reached on an error by the Ball State first baseman, freshman Ian Nielsen.

With two runners on, freshman designated hitter Conner Mach took advantage of the Cardinals' sloppy fielding and launched a fastball over the left-center field fence for his first home run and tied the game at four.

"It was a big spot in the game and it was just the best feeling, being a freshman and getting a big hit in a big spot," Mach said. "I got a peek of the center fielder and he wasn't even going after it, so that's when I knew it was gone."

Mach had an outstanding series overall. The freshman started at second base in game one of Saturday's doubleheader and went two for four. Starting at designated hitter in the second game, Mach was even better, finishing four for five with three runs batted in. To cap it off, he got his third straight start Sunday and produced again with the game-tying homerun.

For most of the season, the Tigers have been searching for a designated hitter. It seems Mach has the inside track.

"It's definitely been a struggle (to make the lineup)," he said. "You've got to bring your game every day. But it's been fun. These guys are awesome and the whole team has always got your back."

Making the lineup should not be a struggle for Mach for the near future.

"We've been looking for someone to step forward in that DH role," Jamieson said. "And there's no question that Conner has. It's his job for a while to say the least."

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