Missouri baseball can’t find answer for Vanderbilt’s star Jack Leiter in 11-3 loss to Commodores

Tigers Junior Tre Morris broke up the combined no-hitter with two outs in the eighth inning, which set up a home run by pinch hitter Torin Montgomery.

Vanderbilt sophomore pitcher Jack Leiter took the mound against Missouri on Friday, boasting a no-hitter in his previous start against South Carolina.

The likely first-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft entered Friday with a 0.31 ERA, the second best in the SEC. Leiter entered Friday not having allowed a single hit in each of his last nine innings pitched.

The Tigers hoped to break that stellar streak. However, Leiter’s fast ball constantly came in at high-velocity and painted the corners as he dropped sliders into the dirt. Missouri couldn’t get Leiter out of the game fast enough ultimately fell 11-3.

The star sophomore exited the game after pitching seven-straight hitless innings. His competitiveness on the mound carried over into Vanderbilt’s bats, which scored seven runs in the first two innings off Missouri starting pitcher Seth Halvorsen.

“We did everything we could to kind of combat what his fastball looks like,” Missouri coach Steve Bieser said. “We just weren't able to hit it.”

Leiter exited before the eighth inning with 101 pitches and 10 strikeouts, mirroring his previous no-hitter’s stat line. The only weakness Leiter displayed on the mound was spotty command. He walked just two Tigers but had several three-ball counts that reflected in his high pitch count.

The sophomore’s full-count pitches and three-ball counts were the reason he left the game with the no-hitter intact. Bieser knew his team would receive a few walks from Leiter, who entered the game with an average of nearly four walks per nine innings.

“We knew we needed to be patient,” Bieser said about Leiter. “We needed to attack the pitch in the middle. We knew that he would give us a few walks throughout the course of the game.”

Leiter gave up just two walks in seven innings but pitched in relatively low-stakes throughout the entire game. When the Commodores opened scoring with a four-run first inning, the game started to feel out of reach for Missouri.

Leiter comfortably threw any pitch he liked, regardless of the situation. He knew that one or two runs wouldn’t hurt him. He built a bigger buffer in the second inning, as Vanderbilt added three more runs off of a couple of doubles and a fielding error by Missouri freshman centerfielder CJ Cepicky.

After seven strong innings, Leiter exited the game with 16 straight no-hit innings and without the chance to be the first known pitcher in either professional or college baseball since 1938 to have thrown two consecutive no-hitters.

When sophomore Chris McElvain relieved Leiter, Vanderbilt’s combined no-hitter was still on the table. Missouri failed to register a hit for eight-and-two-thirds of an inning before junior Tre Morris slashed a single into right field to break up the Commodores’ no-hitter.

A fielding error and a home run by sophomore pinch hitter Torin Montgomery kept Missouri from being shutout by Vanderbilt.

Bieser was pleased with his team’s resilience until the very last out.

“I'm proud that we finished that last inning and that's what we talk about: playing nine full innings," Bieser said.

After back-to-back games facing two of the best pitchers in college baseball and likely top three overall picks in the MLB Draft, Missouri will look to Sunday to avoid the sweep.

Vanderbilt will have sophomore pitcher Thomas Schultz on the bump, who likely will be an easier opponent than junior starting pitcher Kumar Rocker and Leiter. Still, Missouri has to deal with the Commodores’ explosive offense and settle down early.

“Relieved is the way you feel now,” Bieser said. “You got rid of the two best pitchers in college baseball that you had to face and so it's all downhill from here. Hopefully tomorrow we can come out and play a little bit better.”

Missouri will finish the series against No. 1 Vanderbilt on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. and then look to its Tuesday matinee against border rival Kansas.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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