Missouri dominates Missouri State behind Vierling, Peterson

Tommy Springer started and threw four solid innings for the Tigers on the mound.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As Mark Vierling stood on third base, having driven in three runs with a triple into the left-centerfield gap, he felt relieved. The sophomore second baseman had his second extra-base hit, playing in his third game back from an injured hand. He had gone just 1-for-7 in his first two games since returning.

The double gave Mizzou (26-12-1, 7-7-1 SEC) a 4-1 lead, one it wouldn’t relinquish in a 14-6 victory over Missouri State (11-25, 4-5 Missouri Valley Conference).

“My hand was bothering me, but I just needed to get in a little bit of a groove again and start playing again,” Vierling said.

Freshman Tommy Springer started on the mound for the third Tuesday in a row. The Minnesota native retired the first five batters he faced before a single and a triple in the second inning gave the Bears an early lead. He ran into more trouble in the third. Staked to a lead after a bases loaded walk to first baseman Tony Ortiz and Vierling’s triple, he faced a one-out, bases loaded jam after a single sandwiched between two walks. A ground ball fielder’s choice brought home one run while getting an out a second base before a Dakota Kotowski strikeout ended the frame.

In Springer’s fourth and final inning, he surrendered another triple, that one off the bat of redshirt junior John Privitera. With Privitera at third, Mason Hull missed a potential suicide squeeze and Privitera was out after a rundown. Hull fanned for the third out.

“[Springer] was really solid,” coach Steve Bieser said. “He was attacking the strike zone. I think the one inning that was a little frustrating was when he walked the leadoff hitter after we scored, but he settled in and he made some good pitches, and he just kept things going.”

Mizzou took no time getting back to work on offense after the blunder. The second batter in the fifth, Ortiz, was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a balk. Vierling cracked a seeing eye single through the right side for his fourth RBI of the game. Walks to Alex Peterson and Paul Gomez brought up Clayton Peterson, who deposited sidearmer Nate Witherspoon’s offering into the bullpen in left for a grand slam.

“It feels great,” Peterson said. “It’s something that I’ve been trying to work for, not going for the home run, but just trying to get the barrel to the baseball and luckily, I was able to do that.”

It was Peterson’s first homer in a Tiger uniform. Beginning the season in the starting lineup, the junior college transfer struggled to adjust to Division 1 pitching and saw his playing time decrease. That trend has changed recently. Tuesday was his second consecutive multiple-RBI game.

“Confidence is key,” he said. “Getting one there, and then have a multi-hit game you boost your confidence, so I think my confidence is starting to go up.”

Left-handed freshman Trae Robertson relieved Springer. He pitched two scoreless innings with four strikeouts as the MU offense kept rolling.

In the seventh and eighth, the Tigers got homers from two players not in the starting lineup. First, freshman Cameron Swanger launched a ball far over the left field wall, landing near a group of trees beyond the 315 sign. The next inning, junior Connor Brumfield went the opposite way and barely dropped one over the same wall.

“Swanger’s been really good coming off the bench,” Bieser said. “And I like the way the he attacked both at-bats that he had.”

Up by 12 runs going into the ninth, Bieser turned to junior Lukas Veinbergs to close out the game. Veinbergs has struggled since transferring from San Jacinto Community College, posting a 5.63 earned run average entering the game while generally only seeing action in blowouts. Those struggles continued as he allowed four runs, two on a homer before getting the final out.

“That was kind of the frustrating part of this game,” Bieser said. “Those bullpen guys have been throwing really good over the last couple of weeks, understanding their roles… this time, it just didn’t go that well and we’ve got to make some adjustments there.”

Missouri’s next game is in Athens, Georgia against the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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