The Maneater

Missouri baseball continues hot start as Kleberg Bank College Classic champs

Freshman pitcher TJ Sikkema was spectacular out of the bullpen Sunday, while Missouri’s bats stole the show on Saturday.

Maneater File Photo

“The times, they are a-changin’” for Missouri Tigers baseball under first-year head coach Steve Bieser, and it showed again during the latter half of the Kleberg Bank College Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas. After earning wins on Thursday and Friday, the Tigers came out strong again over the weekend.

Missouri earned a 7-6 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini on Sunday afternoon to win the Classic and extend the team’s winning streak to seven games.

The Tigers, who improved to 7-1 on the season, were once again the beneficiaries of timely hitting and tremendous work from the bullpen. Freshman left-handed pitcher TJ Sikkema threw the final 4.1 innings to get his first career win out of the bullpen, while the team’s hitters cracked double digits in the hit column for the sixth time in eight games to supply enough offense to earn the win.

Sikkema finished off a tremendous week with his best outing of the season. He allowed three hits and no walks over his four-plus innings of work, while striking out eight, matching his career high. He has now thrown 12 straight scoreless innings and boasts an earned run average of 0.83.

It initially appeared that the Tigers were going to run away with the game, as three doubles and a bases-loaded single powered the team to an early 4-0 lead. However, redshirt sophomore and starter Liam Carter struggled to put Illinois hitters away and surrendered two three-run homers in the first two innings. This allowed Illinois to jump out to a 6-4 lead. After Carter gave up a leadoff walk to begin the third inning, Bieser lifted him for redshirt sophomore Cameron Dulle, who threw 2.2 scoreless innings before handing the ball off to Sikkema.

By keeping constant pressure on Illinois’ pitching and defense, Missouri was able to slowly chip away at the Fighting Illini’s lead. The Tigers picked up one run on a two-out, bases-loaded balk by Illini reliever Zack Jones in the fifth to make the game 6-5. Missouri scored two in the sixth on a wild pitch and an error to take a 7-6 lead, which was all Sikkema ended up needing.

On Saturday, Michael Plassmeyer worked a sensational six innings, only surrendering one run while striking out eight as the Tigers defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 9-0 for the second time in the tournament.

The Tigers took on the Islanders after defeating the University of Houston the previous day. And in Corpus Christi on Saturday, the bats continued to shine for the Tigers at Whataburger Field. They amassed nine runs on 15 hits, with Kameron Misner going 3-for-5 on the night.

The scoring began in the second inning, when Alex Samples doubled to left field, allowing Brett Bond to score as Samples slid safely into second. The rout was on when the Tigers scored four runs in the third inning, increasing the gap to five runs. The Tigers never looked back after that, adding two more runs in the sixth and seventh innings respectively.

The Tigers pitching staff neutralized the Islanders’ bats with Plassmeyer masterfully working the corners of the plate, keeping the batters off balance. The bullpen followed with strong work and maintained the pressure on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s batters. The relievers didn’t surrender a hit and were able to comfortably close out the game for the Tigers.

Plassmeyer got the win, moving to 2-0 this season with a 1.64 ERA. The sophomore lefty has had a strong start to the season and has added depth to the pitching staff.

Next up for the Tigers is their home opener on March 3 against University of Illinois at Chicago, which took two of three from No. 7 Vanderbilt this weekend. First pitch will be at 6:30 p.m. from Taylor Stadium.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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