Five takeaways from Missouri baseball’s sweep of Northwestern

The Tigers scored 28 runs over the weekend.
Designed by Corey Hadfield

Sophomore Ian Bedell closed Missouri baseball’s 9-4 win against Northwestern Sunday with his third scoreless inning. It put an exclamation point on a three-game series sweep that saw a bit of everything, from towering home runs to small ball; wind and rain to beautiful blue skies.

In one of its last tune-ups before SEC play starts on March 15 with a road trip to Arkansas, Missouri (9-5) still has things to figure out. While some, like the aggressive mindset coach Steve Bieser has wanted his team to have, became less of an issue through the weekend, others, like the outfield starters, were not given any clarity.

With that in mind, here are five takeaways from Missouri’s sweep against Northwestern.

Ortiz found his swing

Senior Tony Ortiz had a big weekend at the plate. The Olympia, Washington, native collected four hits in the series, three of which were home runs. His seven RBIs were a quarter of the team’s total of 28 RBIs.

After his two-home run game Saturday, Ortiz said that with two strikes, he was just looking for a pitch to drive. Hitting his longest home run of the weekend Sunday on an 0-1 count, his approach was a bit more aggressive.

“I was sitting curveball and he threw it, and he hung it, and I hit it,” Ortiz said.

The “small ball” team has power

Bieser has stressed that he wants his squad to be a small ball team. Missouri laid down a handful of bunts in the game Sunday, but its small ball identity was overpowered in the series by the Tigers’ power stroke.

Over the three games, Bieser’s team put the bat on the ball, hitting 14 extra base hits. In addition to Ortiz’s three home runs, juniors Kameron Misner and Chris Cornelius each hit one Saturday and Austin James hit one Sunday.

Despite the power surge, Bieser is still focused on making small ball a priority for the team.

“We know what our team identity has to be,” he said after the game Saturday. “The other thing is we have to play to the conditions. Dropping a bunt down today would not be smart.”

The defense had an off weekend

Defense hasn’t been an issue for Missouri this season. Coming into the weekend, the team had committed seven errors in 11 games. Uncharacteristically, the Tigers finished the weekend having committed five errors and almost doubling their season total.

After the game Sunday, Bieser said he wasn’t worried about defense being a problem.

“We do a great job defending,” he said. “We just had a bad day defensively.”

The bullpen staff is finding consistency

Starting with ace junior TJ Sikkema Friday, each of Missouri’s starters went at least five full innings. Sikkema finished after seven innings, junior Jacob Cantleberry finished after five innings on Saturday and senior Tyler LaPlante finished after six innings Sunday.

Pitching a collective nine innings in the series, the bullpen pitched well outside of the ninth inning Saturday where sophomore Trey Dillard gave up four runs.

Coming in to the game with a one-run lead Friday, senior Cameron Dulle was lights out for his second save of the season.

Bieser had each of his relievers throw a maximum one inning Saturday with a big lead to act as a tune up for the midweek games.

Unlike the five pitchers that threw the night before, Bedell went three innings Sunday, giving up no runs and only one hit.

“Bedell was fantastic,” Bieser said. “He attacked the strike zone, just like we ask all our relievers to do.”

The outfield is yet to be determined

With the exception of Misner, the outfield has been anything but secure this season. There have been a handful of players swapping starting spots, as well as others coming into games.

Bieser said the decision-making process is focused more heavily on offensive production because the current platoon players are all good defensive outfielders. Asked if any progress was made in his decision, he explained nobody has pulled ahead for the second starting spot.

“Boy, there isn’t,” Bieser said. “I was hoping to answer some questions this week and I think it’s exactly what we’ve been doing. We’re going to look at matchups and the guy that we feel matches up against this pitcher best, we’re going to play him.”

Weather permitting — rain is in the forecast — Missouri will face off against Arkansas State at home March 12-13.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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