Missouri baseball earns series win over Rhode Island in Sunshine State

The Tigers rebounded from a loss to Northeastern to pick up their first series win of the young season.
Mizzou baseball before their series opener against Rhode Island on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Missouri baseball finished its season-opening trip through Florida by winning a three-game series against Rhode Island over the weekend in Fort Myers, Florida. The Tigers batted as the home team throughout the series, which was played at City of Palms Park.

After losing the opener on Friday night, Missouri bounced back to take the final two matchups and finish the trip with a 4-4 overall record.

Bullpen blues plague Tigers in Friday night defeat

The same late-inning troubles that haunted Missouri in the first five games of the season derailed a 5-2 lead in the series opener against Rhode Island.

The Tigers put together their best offensive game of the young season after Rhode Island starting pitcher Tyler Wilson exited with an injury in the first inning. Four Missouri starters racked up multiple hits, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Rams from pulling ahead late for an 8-6 victory.

Both teams struggled with defensive errors in the first five innings of the contest.

In his first start of the year, junior southpaw TJ Sikkema struck out eight over four innings but gave up Rhode Island’s first run when he committed an error in the second inning with Missouri up 1-0. Three batters later, an error by sophomore third baseman Mark Vierling brought another run home.

The Rams would fall victim to their own mistakes in the fourth and fifth innings as the Tigers scored four unanswered runs. Each frame featured one run scored directly off of a Rhode Island error followed by a second run immediately after the fielding mishap.

Once the Tigers had built up the three-run lead, the bullpen wasted little time in unraveling to put the Rams back on top. Four relief pitchers combined to allow six runs on six hits in the sixth through eighth innings, including sophomore Ian Bedell, who gave up a three-run home run to right fielder Sam Ilario on his very first pitch. That long ball put Rhode Island up 8-5 in the eighth inning.

Missouri’s hitters put up a fight to get back into the game over the final two innings. Freshman Luke Mann, pinch hitting for Vierling, hit a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to pull the Tigers to within two. The Tigers then loaded up the bases with one out in the ninth, giving junior cleanup hitter Chris Cornelius a chance to tie or even win the game on one swing.

Cornelius already had two hits and one RBI to his name on the evening, but he promptly grounded into a double play to end the game.

"It was a really difficult game tonight and hard to digest right now,” Missouri coach Steve Bieser said in a press release. “We got to find a way and that was the message after this game. We have to change things up, dig deep and find a way to make something different happen."

Hits come out in throngs in Tigers’ 12-4 win Saturday

Missouri responded to Friday’s loss with a hitting show on Saturday, putting up the largest run total of the season to this point.

In its 12-4 win in game two of three against Rhode Island, Missouri tallied 13 hits behind five strong innings from junior Art Joven. The transfer gave up four hits, seven strikeouts, one walk and no earned runs in his second outing of the year.

The scoring for the Tigers started in the second inning with a triple from sophomore Chad McDaniel, followed by an RBI single by senior Tony Ortiz to plate McDaniel. In the next at-bat, Mann reached on an error that scored Ortiz. The third run of the inning scored on a single from Vierling.

The lead extended to five in the next frame. Junior Kameron Misner walked to start the inning, and Cornelius crushed the one ball, two strike pitch for a two-run home run to left field.

In the sixth inning, Bieser went to his bullpen. As quickly as Missouri extended the lead, it got reduced to just two. Sophomore Luke Anderson, pitching in relief of Joven, gave up a single with runners on first and second to plate the first Rhode Island run of the game. That would be it for Anderson, who threw only two-thirds of an inning.

The next pitcher on the chain, sophomore Cameron Pferrer, gave up a walk to load the bases. He hit the next batter to bring in a run, and then walked the third batter, bringing in the third run. Pferrer didn’t record an out. Freshman Tommy Springer was brought in as the third pitcher of the inning and recorded the long awaited third out.

In the bottom half of the inning, Missouri put two more runs on the board to take a 7-3 lead.

The following inning, Springer encountered a bases loaded jam once again. This time, senior Jordan Gubelman came in to get the Tigers out of the inning. Gubelman gave up a run on a groundout for the second out of the inning and ended the inning with a strikeout. Rhode Island would not score another run in the game.

In the eighth inning, the Tigers scored the final five runs of the game on five hits to extend the lead to 12-4. Leading the offense was Vierling, who went 3 for 4 with a walk and sophomore Clayton Peterson and Cornelius, who both finished 2 for 4. Cornelius also had a home run.

Strong pitching, early offense overwhelm Rams to close out series

Missouri carried over its offensive production from Saturday into the series finale on Sunday. The difference between the two games was the pitching of junior Jacob Cantleberry, who shut Rhode Island down for six innings en route to the Tigers’ first shutout victory of the year.

A smattering of runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings was more than enough for Missouri to claim the rubber game of the series, finishing off Rhode Island with a 7-0 victory.

In his second start of the season, Cantleberry struck out 10 and earned the win. Rhode Island’s best chance against the lefthander came in the second inning, when a pair of singles put runners on first and third with two outs. Cantleberry struck out Rams third baseman Joe Fortin to end the threat.

Missouri broke the scoreless tie in the third on an RBI single by Tiger senior left fielder Connor Brumfield. Three batters later, Misner brought Brumfield home with a single of his own to make it 2-0.

The Tigers used small ball to tack on another run in the fourth. After a leadoff single, Cornelius advanced to second on a groundout and to third on an error. Ortiz then grounded out but earned the RBI as Cornelius reached home on the play.

A pair of two-run home runs by Mann and McDaniel broke the game open in the fifth to give Missouri the seven-run edge. After Cantleberry’s removal following the sixth inning, three relievers combined to hold the Rams scoreless and finish off the victory.

“It was a really clean game,” Bieser said in a press release. “We wanted to be offensive at the plate and go out and pitch. We were able to do those things. I’m pleased with how we concluded this trip.”

Missouri will return to Columbia for its home debut Tuesday at 4 p.m. against Alabama A&M.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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