Bats come alive, Missouri takes down SEMO

Sophomore Alex Peterson set the tone with two outstanding defensive plays in the first inning.

In a jam in the first inning, freshman pitcher Trae Robertson needed to catch a break. Already down 1-0, the southpaw was facing a one-out, runner in scoring position jam when Southeast Missouri first baseman Austin Blazevic flared one down the left field line.

It wasn’t a particularly hard-hit ball, but it was falling quickly in short left field. Sophomore outfielder Alex Peterson charged in and laid out, extending his glove just far enough to catch the ball before it hit the grass.

One batter later, Southeast Missouri third baseman Alex Nielson laced a ball down the left field line. As shortstop Tyler Wilber motored around third, trying to build on his team’s 1-0 first inning lead, Peterson unleashed a rocket to catcher Chad McDaniel on the fly from medium left field. Wilbur was out, and the Tigers were out of the inning.

The defensive gems were the start of Peterson’s best game in a Missouri uniform. He went 2-for-3 with his first career homer in No. 25 Missouri’s (31-15-1, 10-10-1 SEC) 21-6 victory over Southeast Missouri State (20-26, 7-14 Ohio Valley Conference).

“It felt good,” Peterson said. “It just opens the game up after that first at-bat, knowing that you can relax more and just be calm.”

In the bottom half of the inning, MU kept the momentum going. The leadoff hitter, senior infielder Paul Gomez, walked, allowing junior shortstop Chris Cornelius to give the Tigers the lead with a home run to straight-away center. It was his first of four hits in the game. Going back to Sunday’s series finale against South Carolina, he’s 7-for-8 with two homers in the last two games.

“I made a small adjustment with my hands,” Cornelius said. “That’s honestly the only thing. It’s been cool just making that one adjustment has done a lot for me these last few games.”

Missouri added one more in the first on a groundout off the bat of McDaniel, then another in the second on Peterson’s homer. In the third, the bats came alive to put eight on the Redhawks and open up the game. Cornelius and junior outfielder Kameron Misner opened up the floodgates with singles. Both scored on junior designated hitter Peter Zimmermann’s frozen rope double down the left field line. He came around to score when Nielson couldn’t handle a sinking line drive from junior third baseman Austin James, who scored along with sophomore second baseman Mark Vierling on Peterson’s single in the next at-bat.

“It’s good to see us respond offensively,” coach Steve Bieser said. “I think we’re seeing the weather warm up, our bats are warming up, and I thought we took some good at-bats early in the game when it’s still a ballgame. Guys are locked in. They’re moving runners. They’re doing all those things that you need to do to win ballgames.”

MU used a committee approach on the mound, with no pitcher going more than three innings. Robertson started, allowing one run in three frames of work. Fellow freshman Tommy Springer followed and ran into trouble in the fourth, allowing the first four batters he faced to reach base and two to score. After a one-out mound visit from Bieser, the right-hander retired the final two batters of the inning.

“He was just leaving everything right at the top of the strike zone,” Bieser said. “Guys were getting good swings, and it looked like his stuff was a little flat. I just told him to get the ball down and trust that if he gets the ball down he’s gonna start getting some outs there.

Sophomores Luke Anderson, Cameron Pferrer and Trey Dillard, and juniors Lukas Veinbergs and Art Joven closed out the game. Of that quintet, only Pferrer and Dillard allowed any runs: two in the seventh for Pferrer, one in the ninth for Dillard.

Meanwhile, the Tiger offense kept rolling, scoring twice in the seventh and six times in the eighth. The dominating win gave the team a perfect 13-0 record in midweek games.

“It’s a great job, what we can do in midweeks,” Peterson said. “They’re not always the easiest to come by even though [opposing teams] aren’t as talented or as willing, but coming off a midweek game, anyone can beat you on a given day, and that’s baseball.”

Missouri’s next game is in Knoxville, Tennessee against No. 23 Tennessee for the beginning of a three-game series.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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