Missouri evens series, takes down LSU behind Sikkema

The junior left-hander struck out 10 in seven innings of work.
Junior T.J. Sikkema delivers his pitch. The lefty had 10 strikeouts while giving up one run over seven innings in MU baseball's 4-1 win over LSU on Saturday.

T.J. Sikkema played with fire all afternoon.

The junior southpaw put runners on in six of the seven innings he pitched on Saturday. A runner made it into scoring position five times, but only one crossed the plate as Missouri (24-12-1, 6-7-1 SEC) took game two of its three game series 4-1 over No. 8 LSU (24-12, 9-5 SEC).

“When guys get on base, [Sikkema] just gets that much tougher, and bears down and does a really good job of stranding runners,” coach Steve Bieser said.

With runners on base in almost every inning, Sikkema had little room for error, but each time a runner got on, the Iowa native rose to the occasion. In Sikkema’s seven innings, LSU went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts with runners in scoring position.

“I take a lot more pride once guys get on base,” he said. “I don’t want them to score. I’m pitching to contact when there’s no one on, trying to get outs that way, keep my pitch count low. But once guys get on, I don’t want them to get to the next base, let alone score, so I really start to use my breaking stuff and sharpen up.”

Missouri got on the board in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Chad McDaniel led off with an infield single that didn’t draw a throw from LSU shortstop Josh Smith. McDaniel was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice by sophomore second baseman Mark Vierling. After senior first baseman Tony Ortiz popped out, the pressure to get the run home sat on the shoulders of senior infielder Paul Gomez.

Gomez squared up a 2-2 offering from LSU starter Cole Henry and laced it down the left field line. Vierling raced home and Mizzou was on the board.

“I put a good swing on it,” Gomez said. “Got a barrel. I was hoping it would get past the third baseman there, and it did. It’s always good to score first.”

The Mizzou bats went quiet until the fifth, when Gomez was again the catalyst for a run-scoring inning. The infielder led off the frame by getting hit by a pitch. He advanced to second on sophomore Alex Peterson’s single, and eventually scored when junior Kameron Misner drew a four pitch walk with the bases loaded.

Sikkema’s tendency of getting into dangerous situations finally came back to bite him in the seventh, his final inning. Third baseman Hal Hughes hit a ground ball that looked like an easy play for MU shortstop Chris Cornelius, but Sikkema stuck his glove down in an attempt to snag it, deflecting it instead. Hughes was aboard with an infield single. Hughes advanced to second on a wild pitch, then to third on a groundout. He scored on another groundout to make the score 2-1.

It didn’t take long for the black and gold-clad Tigers to respond. Peterson led off the bottom of the seventh with a double down the left field line. He scored on a sacrifice fly from his brother, Clayton Peterson. Alex Peterson finished the game 2-for-4, having been on base in two of the three innings where Mizzou scored, while Clayton contributed with two sacrifices that led to runs in those same innings.

“We opened the year with Alex and Clayton both were starting outfielders based on their performances in the fall and their performance early, and for whatever reason they got off to slow starts, but by no means have I given up on either one of those guys,” Bieser said. “They’re gonna be fine.”

In Friday night’s extra inning loss, Bieser used two of his go-to relief pitchers in sophomore Konnor Ash and junior Jordan Gubelman. Up by three runs in the eighth inning Saturday, he turned to sophomore Ian Bedell to finish the game. Bedell retired six of the seven LSU hitters he faced, striking out one.

“The motto is ‘when you have a lead, don’t ever give it up,’” Bedell said. “And coaches came down to the pen and it was just ‘blow up three guys, get three tickets as fast as possible.’”

Missouri will go for the series win on Sunday with junior Art Joven on the mound.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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