Down eight, Missouri rallies, prevails 17-16 in five-hour classic at Iowa

In their signature win of 2018 so far, the Tigers trailed 8-0 and 13-6 before edging Iowa in a wild 11th inning climax.
Outfielder Zach Hanna prepares for a pitch against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers on March 4, 2018.

Missouri’s 11-10 series finale loss at Kentucky on Sunday had everything. The Tigers had their apparent game-winning grand slam wiped out by, well, a game-winning grand slam that erased their late three-run lead. Surely, nothing could top it.

Enter Iowa, stretching and proclaiming: “Hold my drink.”

In a game that wasn’t even on its schedule two weeks ago, Missouri — down 8-0 after three innings, 13-6 after six, 14-13 after eight — found a way to topple the RPI top-50 Iowa Hawkeyes on the road, 17-16, in a five-hour, 11-inning marathon Tuesday night.

Shortstop Chris Cornelius ripped a tie-breaking RBI single in the top of the 11th to break a 15-15 tie and give Missouri the lead back for good, just its second advantage of the game. The Tigers briefly led in the ninth on a two-run rally after they entered the frame trailing, but that disappeared in the bottom half of the inning on one of Iowa’s seven home runs in the game.

Junior outfielder Zach Hanna added an RBI single in the 11th to double Missouri’s lead. The game-winning rally started on a leadoff single from Brian Sharp. It was one of his season-high four hits after he entered the game in the fourth inning … as a pitcher.

Among other pitcher-behind-the-plate oddities in this 33-run extravaganza were Missouri’s Andy Toelken recording a hit and the Tigers’ use of pitcher Cody Siebenberger as a pinch hitter.

Luke Anderson was tapped to put an end to the madness in the bottom of the 11th with a two- run lead to protect, and he did just that, but not before making things interesting.

He gave up a solo home run — the last of those seven dingers — to cut the lead in half. He held on for the save after issuing back to back two-out walks to get the tying run in scoring position. In the process, Missouri coach Steve Bieser took issue with the strike zone and was ejected.

“The guys laid it all on the line today,” Bieser said after the game in a press release. “You talk about some resilience and just battling all the way through and never gave in. There were lots of ups and downs, but they just kept trusting one another.”

Going into this thrillride, Konnor Ash had not started a game for the Tigers since opening day, working exclusively out of the bullpen since then. His rust showed.

The righty was tagged for three runs and failed to complete the second inning.

Coach Steve Bieser wasted no time going to his bullpen, turning to Cameron Pferrer to try to limit the damage. He was unable to do so, and after just three innings, the Tigers found themselves in an 8-0 hole.

In the top of the fourth inning, the Tigers started to chip away. Four consecutive walks included a bases loaded one to Cornelius, allowing Missouri to get on the board in unusual fashion.

In the next inning, Sharp, fresh into the game, added a run-scoring single. Next, pinch hitter Tony Ortiz delivered a two-run double to cut further into the deficit. Cornelius added an RBI groundout to cut it to 8-5 after five innings of play.

Brett Bond, filling in at first base as slugger Kameron Misner remains sidelined, came through in the sixth with an RBI double that sliced the score to 8-6.

But just as quickly as the Tigers got back in the game, they got themselves out of it by giving up five runs to Iowa in the bottom of the sixth to reopen a seven-run hole.

Turns out, the fun was just getting started.

In part of a five-run eighth, Cornelius closed the gap with a three-run triple. Still down 13-11, Hanna corked a shocking two-run shot to tie the affair at 13 a piece.

Iowa went ahead in the bottom of the eighth, but a sacrifice fly by Ortiz tied it yet again in the ninth. Connor Brumfield added an RBI double to put the Tigers ahead 15-14 before another solo shot by the Hawkeyes sent the game to extras tied at 15, setting up Missouri’s 11th inning heroics and an improbable win.

Just two weeks ago, Missouri included Iowa as a mid-season add. The Tigers had already dropped three games due to inclement weather this season, all in the nonconference portion of its schedule.

NCAA rules permit teams to play a maximum of 56 regular season games, and even with the Iowa addition, the Tigers are only set at 55 — not including the SEC tournament and potential NCAA Regional play thereafter.

Looking ahead, the Tigers have another crucial weekend series at home against the Georgia Bulldogs starting Thursday with first pitch scheduled for 6 pm.

Edited by Anne Clinkenbeard |

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