Bedell dominates Western Illinois in 7-3 home opener win

The Tigers’ No. 1 starter struck out 12 and allowed two earned runs over 6 innings pitched.
Konnor Ash throws a pitch against Western Illinois. | Photo courtesy of Twitter via @MizzouBaseball.

Ian Bedell was masterful in Missouri’s (7-5) home opener against Western Illinois (0-10), sending 12 Leathernecks back to the bench and leading his team to a 7-3 win on Friday night.

Two hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth, and a walk were the only blemishes on an otherwise impeccable performance from the junior. In his first season as a full-time starter, Bedell has been tasked with leading the Tigers’ rotation and he delivered at Taylor Stadium, lowering his ERA to 3.56 and setting a career high in strikeouts.

“I thought Ian was sharp,” coach Steve Bieser said. “His off-speed was really sharp, he was locating fine and he was using the strike zone that he was given. He was able to take advantage of the strike zone and the hitters, and I just really thought he threw the ball well.”

Bedell, currently No. 62 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Draft Prospects list, baffled Western Illinois hitters with high heat and a curveball that many of them whiffed on in the dirt. He credited the team’s advanced scouting program, Synergy, with providing the knowledge that biting at pitches out of the strike zone was something that the Leathernecks would do.

“This was the first time I had used [Synergy] for a start,” Bedell said. “I saw that they chased a lot of stuff up and down, so I felt really confident going into it with a good game plan.” This was likely Bedell’s final start in non-conference play, as Bieser’s bunch will travel to Tuscaloosa next weekend to face a ranked Alabama team that currently sits at 14-0. Bedell will likely get the Friday start again for Missouri. The one thing that he believes will change for Missouri is their usually excellent defense, which committed four errors tonight.

“It was a little shaky in the field today, but that’s not us,” Bedell said, lauding the way that the players behind him normally perform. “Our clip is to field at .980, which is Top 25 in the nation and that’s what we plan on doing. We’re going to be a little bit better going into conference play, where we’ll clean up some things but they should be cleaned up tomorrow as well.”

“To have four errors, that’s very uncharacteristic of our teams,” Bieser said. “That might be the most errors that we’ve had in a game since I’ve been here. We take a lot of pride in our defense, and we just kind of got a little sloppy today.”

Offensively, the Tigers came out of the clubhouse looking to run Western Illinois out of Columbia. After scoring two in the first on a Tre Morris single and a Peter Zimmermann groundout, a previously slumping Austin James came to the plate in the second with a runner on and a runner in (Cameron Swanger and Alex Peterson, respectively). He proceeded to loft a high fly ball into the left field bullpen to blow the game wide open.

Clayton Peterson — Alex’s brother — lined a triple into left center two batters later and later scored, giving Missouri a 7-0 lead from which the Leathernecks did not recover and ousting Western Illinois starter Johnny Beck after he recorded a mere three outs.

“I was just trying to get a pitch that I could drive somewhere,” James said. “I’ve been struggling, scuffling a little bit. Coach is just telling me I can, just everyone keeping me up and in good spirits, and I got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it.”

After the second, however, the Tigers got nothing. They had no answers for Leatherneck reliever Chandler Fochs, who despite entering the game with an ERA over 12 tossed seven innings and allowed zero runs. Both Bieser and James acknowledged that their situational hitting must improve, but they also credited Fochs with an outstanding outing.

“He had a two breaking ball mix,” James said. “He had a pretty big curveball and then a pretty tight slider. The slider was his best pitch, and he used it to really attack the zone, and he made us get ourselves out. That was the difference between [Fochs and Beck].”

Missouri will return to Taylor Stadium Saturday morning and put No. 2 starter Konnor Ash on the bump against a still winless Western Illinois squad. Like Bedell, Ash was a reliever for most of last season and will take the ball every weekend for the Tigers.

“I know that Konnor Ash is going to go out there and do an incredible job,” Bedell said. “He’ll just absolutely pound the zone and make those guys have to swing it.”

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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