Career high four hits from McDaniel lead Missouri past South Carolina

The Tigers got their first SEC sweep of the year on the backs of Chad McDaniel and the bullpen.
Sophomore catcher Chad McDaniel heads towards first base after making contact during Sunday's contest against South Carolina. The Tigers beat the Gamecocks 9-7, sweeping the series 3-0 at home.

It was only the first inning, and things couldn’t have gotten much worse for Missouri. Junior starting pitcher Art Joven hadn’t recorded an out before being pulled in the first inning against South Carolina. All three runners on base when sophomore Konnor Ash entered came around to score.

MU was down 4-0 when juniors Kameron Misner and Peter Zimmermann struck out with runners on first and second. The Tigers were in danger of blowing a golden opportunity when sophomore catcher Chad McDaniel stepped to the plate. After a wild pitch advanced both runners, McDaniel laced a ball into right field to score freshman Josh Holt Jr. and junior Chris Cornelius and halve the USC lead. It was McDaniel’s first of four hits, tying a career high. Mizzou (30-15-1, 10-10-1 SEC) took down South Carolina (24-20, 5-16 SEC) 9-7 to sweep the series.

McDaniel’s day capped off his best series of the year, one where he went 9-for-13 and raised his batting average 34 points.

“Mostly to just stay through the middle of the field, because I had a problem with pulling the ball for the most part,” McDaniel said. “...I think I did a good job readjusting my sights and just helping me out there.”

The Gamecocks bounced back in the second when junior shortstop George Callil took Ash deep to left field to increase their lead to three. Ash settled down and retired the last eight batters he faced, including striking out the side in the fourth, his last inning of work.

“It didn’t look like he had a great feel for his command,” coach Steve Beiser said. “He had good stuff. He had his arm strength, but he missed with a pitch there. We got burnt on it, but he kept us in the ballgame.”

MU put up two more in the third. Once again, Holt and Cornelius scored, and once again, it was McDaniel providing a key two-out hit, this time a double down the right field line, sending Cornelius to third and allowing him to score on a wild pitch. It was the second straight at-bat he came through after sluggers Misner and Zimmermann hadn’t been able to convert with runners on base.

“Coach Bieser and coach [Jake Epstein] always say ‘When there’s a guy in scoring position, you should love that moment. You should embrace it, and you should love to be able to drive in RBI’s whenever you can’,” McDaniel said. “I just basically looked at it as a winning opportunity for me, not as much a pressure opportunity, but just another day, another thing I have to do.”

South Carolina struck back in the sixth, putting up an unearned run on senior Cameron Dulle after errors by Cornelius and senior Paul Gomez, followed by a double down the left field line to retake the lead.

That lead lasted exactly four pitches after Mizzou came back to the plate. Senior first baseman Tony Ortiz led off with a triple into the right-center gap and scored on sophomore Mark Vierling’s bloop into right field.

It was in the seventh when the heart of the order finally came through for Missouri. Misner led off with an opposite-field single to left, bringing up Zimmermann. The St. Louis native had had a frustrating day— he was 0-for-3 and was called out looking in the first inning after he began to jog to first, thinking it was ball four. He got ahold of an 0-1 pitch and knew it was gone as soon as it left his bat.

“I was trying to get a ball into the gap because I know how well Kam runs,” Zimmermann said. “He did a great job getting on base as a leadoff guy and just trying to find a way to help the team win.”

Inclement weather in the area caused a delay at the start of the eighth. With no indication the lightning would cease by 6 p.m., the time that SEC rules state all Sunday games must be resumed by, the game was called.

The win gave Missouri its first sweep of the SEC season after being on the losing end twice.

“When you start with a guy on base, it definitely settles you down as a hitter,” Cornelius said. “Being able to work as a whole unit, and not just one guy having a good game, this guy having a good game, being able to work together was huge for us this weekend.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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