Missouri baseball drops 2 of 3 in opening series

The Tigers’ pitching staff struggled to limit the Ospreys’ offense.
Designed by Corey Hadfield

Missouri baseball may have escaped the cold and snow, but in Jacksonville, Florida, the Tigers faltered in the warmth. In a weekend highlighted by inconsistent pitching and sluggish at bats, the team couldn’t piece anything together, dropping two of three games at the University of North Florida.

Getting the nod Friday to open the season for Missouri (1-2), senior Tyler LaPlante couldn’t stop the North Florida bats, allowing the first run of the season with one out in the first inning. LaPlante, with one out, gave up a single and a double. With runners on second and third, the Ospreys plated a run on a fielder’s choice.

In the following inning, North Florida stuck again. Giving up a double and walking another on a full count, LaPlante surrendered a single down the line, scoring the runner from second.

The Missouri bats woke up in the third inning. Sophomore Alex Peterson started the frame with a single up the middle, then promptly stole second. A balk moved him to third. With Peterson on third base and no outs, sophomore Chad McDaniel hit a dribbler down the first base line scoring Peterson.

The score held at 2-1 in favor of the Ospreys until the top of the fifth.

The tie only lasted a half inning. In the bottom half of the frame, LaPlante gave up a single to North Florida’s Wes Weeks. Weeks advanced to second on a passed ball and a sacrifice fly put him at third base. He scored as the next batter cracked LaPlante’s pitch back up the middle. Weeks finished the night 4-4 with two RBIs.

From there, the score became a seesaw battle. Countering in the top of the sixth, junior Chris Cornelius tied the game with a double. In the bottom of the seventh, Weeks broke the tie, hitting a solo home run off sophomore Ian Bedell. In the top of the eighth, Cornelius hit a solo shot and Missouri tied it again at 4-4.

Opening the bottom of the eighth, Bedell gave up a double and got taken out in favor of junior ace TJ Sikkema. After a passed ball advanced the runner to third, a sacrifice fly plated what would become the winning run. Bedell was pegged as the losing pitcher in Missouri’s 5-4 loss.

Coming back for game two of the series Saturday, the starting pitching struggles continued.

Making his debut in black and gold, junior transfer Art Joven lasted only one inning. Facing 11 batters, he gave up three hits, four walks — one of which he hit with a pitch — and two earned runs.

Coming in to relieve Joven, senior Jordan Gubelman was faced with a bases loaded, no out jam. Gubelman’s first batter grounded into a 5-2 double play. He got out of the inning unscathed with another groundout.

Under the warm Florida sun, Missouri’s offense gave the pitching staff the run support it needed. Junior Kameron Misner started off the game with a double to plate one. In the second inning, junior Austin James scored on a wild pitch.

Returning to the dugout after Gubelman’s first inning of work, Misner proceeded to break the 2-2 tie with one of his two home runs for the game. His second home run tied the game back up at 4-4 in the fifth inning. Misner finished 3-4 with three RBIs.

The winning run for the Tigers came in the sixth inning. McDaniel walked to open the frame, then stole second. James struck out, bringing junior Peter Zimmerman up with one out and McDaniel on second. On the second pitch of the at bat, Zimmerman roped a double into left field, scoring McDaniel.

After a subpar performance the night before, the Missouri bullpen came back Saturday to hold the lead. Gubelman was replaced by sophomore Konnor Ash, whose three scoreless innings left him as Saturday’s winning pitcher. Senior Cameron Dulle contributed two innings and Sikkema closed the game, getting the save.

The Tigers couldn’t say the same for the bullpen Sunday.

Going into the seventh inning, it seemed as if Missouri held all the momentum. The team was up 2-0, and after six strong innings from junior Jacob Cantleberry the Ospreys were fighting to gather any sort of tide-turning opportunity.

The first run came in the first inning when senior Tony Ortiz, making his season debut, singled into center, scoring Peterson. The second run was also off the bat of Ortiz, this time grounding into a fielder’s choice in the third inning, scoring Peterson again.

Pitching with a two run cushion, Cantleberry kept North Florida at bay. The transfer from Greenwood, Indiana, didn’t make many mistakes, giving up only three hits and a walk in his outing while racking up 10 strikeouts.

Due to pitch count restrictions, Cantleberry came out after the sixth inning. Given a higher pitch count, coach Steve Bieser would have left his starter in.

"What an outstanding performance by Jacob,” Bieser said in a press release after the game. “It's a shame that we wasted that start. If this was midyear, then he probably has his pitch count up and throws a complete game shutout the way he was throwing today."

It took all of one inning for the start to be wasted.

Junior Lukas Veinbergs came in for relief in the seventh inning. Two walks and a single left Veinbergs with bases loaded, no outs. The next batter punched the pitcher’s delivery into right field to put North Florida on the board.

With the bases loaded again, clinging to a one run lead, Veinbergs forced a pop out for the first out of the inning. He only recorded the one out.

The next batter singled in another run and after just 0.1 innings, Veinbergs was out, in favor of sophomore Luke Anderson. The pitching change didn’t help as the next batter singled in another two runs. A double play got Anderson out of the inning, but the damage was already done.

The Ospreys’ four-run inning left Missouri in a 4-2 deficit with just two innings left.

Having only notched three hits since the third inning, the Tigers were stumped by the Ospreys, finishing the game with nine total strikeouts.

An opportunity didn’t come until the top of the ninth when Misner stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Zimmerman singled through the left side and was lifted for freshman Tre Morris. Pinch hitting, sophomore Thomas Broyles singled also, advancing Morris to third. Senior Connor Brumfield flew out in foul territory for the second out. Peterson walked to load the bases.

Misner — who finished 0-3 with two walks in the game — crushed the dealing into deep center field only to have it fall into the glove of the North Florida center fielder to end the game.

After the game, Bieser wasn’t satisfied with his team’s offensive effort.

“There was some complacency on our end and some inexperience,” he said. “We thought the game was going to come easy to us. You could see it coming in after the third inning, as there wasn't a sense of urgency. Our at bats got really poor … I thought we couldn't put anything together and we waited until the ninth inning to really try to kick it in."

Missouri will have a short time to get prepared for its next game. The team plays at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Florida, Tuesday, in the fourth of eight games on its Florida road trip.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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