Missouri baseball takes two of three at Auburn behind Harris’ clutch hitting

Auburn committed six errors in the series.
Bryce Montes de Oca pitches in a game last season. Photo Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Coming off a four-day hiatus that saw a midweek nonconference matchup with the Western Illinois Leathernecks get canceled due to weather, the Missouri Tigers had plenty of rest leading up to a tough weekend series at the No. 19 Auburn Tigers, ranked No. 9 in the nation in RPI.

But senior outfielder Trey Harris and suspect Auburn defense helped Missouri take two of three in an inspiring upset series win. Missouri dropped the opener 5-2 before earning victories on Saturday, 2-1, and Sunday, 5-0.

In Friday’s series opener, Missouri could not have gotten off to a faster start. Harris went deep on the first pitch of the game and just like that, Missouri was up 1-0. Auburn sent projected first-round draft pick Casey Mize to the mound, so Harris’ long ball was the only offense Missouri could scrape together for the first six innings of the contest.

TJ Sikkema took the mound for Missouri in what was just his second start of the season. He gave up two runs in the bottom of the first but then settled down before command issues resurfaced in the sixth inning. After walking the first two batters, Auburn plated two more before chasing Sikkema after six full innings of work. He exited with his team down three runs.

In the top of the seventh, the Tigers managed to get a run batted in without the ball leaving the infield in the form of a bunt RBI single by center fielder Connor Brumfield. However, Missouri was unable to find any consistent offensive attack, totaling just five hits on the evening.

Auburn added an insurance run via a solo home run in the bottom half of the seventh, and Missouri was never able to put together a real scoring threat in the eighth or ninth. With that, Missouri dropped the series opener 5-2 behind so-so pitching and lackluster offense.

In Saturday’s matchup, rotation regular Michael Plassmeyer toed the rubber for Missouri. He got through five innings while allowing just one run on six hits to go along with seven strikeouts.

After giving up a run in the bottom of the second, he settled in.

The Missouri bats struggled to get anything going again on Saturday, but Harris carried the load again, tying the game at 1 in the top half of the fifth with a run-scoring double.

For the last four frames, Andy Toelken, usually a starter, came in for Missouri and shut down the Auburn bats. He turned in four innings of work, allowing just one hit, three walks and, most importantly, no runs.

The struggle continued for the Missouri bats, but three Auburn errors would prove to be the difference in the game. One error in the top of the seventh was particularly costly. Harris hit a fly ball to left field that was dropped, allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Toelken shut down the Auburn bats for the rest of the day and with that, Missouri earned a 2-1 victory and tied the series at a game a piece.

In the rubber game and series finale, Bryce Montes de Oca dominated from the get-go. He tossed six shutout innings of one-hit ball, walking four while striking out five.

Auburn countered with highly touted freshman hurler Tanner Burns. He held the Missouri bats in check for the first four frames.

In the top of the fifth, the Auburn defense reared its ugly head, opening the floodgates for the Missouri offense. An error by the Auburn second baseman followed by back-to-back walks set the stage for Harris, who again came through with a two-out grand slam.

That was all the offense Missouri would need, as Nile Ball came in and shut the door with three scoreless innings to earn the save.

With the eventual 5-0 victory, Missouri earned an important Southeastern Conference road series upset win and is now 21-7 on the year, with a 5-4 mark in league play.

After Sunday’s victory, head coach Steve Bieser was pleased but not content.

“We have to enjoy the moment right now, but we have to get ready to go next week,” he said in a press release.

The Tigers resume action with a Tuesday matchup against the Missouri State Bears at Busch Stadium in St. Louis at 6:30 p.m.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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