Cantleberry gets bailed out by offense in Missouri’s 5-2 win

The Tigers scored two runs unearned.

With a runner on second and two outs in the fourth inning, South Carolina designated hitter Josiah Sightler pounded a pitch into the outstretched glove of senior Tony Ortiz. The diving play to his right saved a run and ended the inning.

The out was just one of many hard hit balls off Missouri starting pitcher Jacob Cantleberry. Despite only giving up two runs over six innings, the junior struggled against South Carolina (24-18, 5-14 SEC). Replacing Cantleberry, sophomore Ian Bedell held the Gamecocks scoreless the rest of the way.

Coupled with four multi-hit games, Cantleberry’s effort would be enough to lead Missouri (28-15-1, 8-10-1 SEC) to a 5-2 win and its first series-opening win in conference play this season.

Junior Kameron Misner led the Tigers with three singles. Sophomore Chad McDaniel, junior Chris Cornelius and Ortiz each had two hits. Cornelius and McDaniel each scored — Cornelius was singled in and scored on a balk while McDaniel scored on a wild pitch.

“When Kam goes, our offense goes,” coach Steve Bieser said after the game.

The bulk of the run production came from junior Peter Zimmermann, who went 1-for-4 with a fielder’s choice and three RBIs. The junior-college transfer opened the scoring for Missouri in the third inning with a blooper that landed between the second baseman and the right fielder. It wasn’t ruled a hit because Misner was thrown out at second on the play.

Cornelius would cross the plate later in the inning when Zimmermann took off for second, causing South Carolina pitcher Reid Morgan to commit a balk. The Tigers’ two runs erased a two-run double given up by Cantleberry in the top half of the inning.

With a one-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh, Zimmermann gave Missouri insurance runs. Senior Paul Gomez reached on an error to open the inning, followed by a single by Cornelius. After Misner struck out, the two runners pulled off a double steal to put themselves in scoring position. Zimmermann put the game out of reach with a single through the six-hole.

“It felt so good,” Zimmermann said. “Paul did a great job getting to third base. Great job on Chris’s end to make sure he got into second. It was a great baseball play all around, and then I just try to do my job.

In the dugout during the long seventh inning, Bedell came back out to pitch the eighth and ninth innings. Unlike Cantleberry, he didn’t allow much hard contact. The three scoreless frames dropped his earned run average down to a minuscule 0.91 on the season.

“I was able to keep the offspeed down for the most part, and then I was also able to throw fastballs in and off the plate,” Bedell said. “I was changing eye levels and also changing sides of the plate.”

The win may not have been pretty, but at this point in the season, the weight of each game is raised with the postseason looming.

“There’s no downplaying the significance of this series,” Zimmermann said. “If you look at what we need to do and what we’re trying to accomplish, this is a big series. Winning Friday night is the first step of hopefully winning three games this weekend.”

Missouri and South Carolina will play its second game of the weekend series today at 6:30 p.m.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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