Missouri puts up 13 in drubbing of Murray State

The Tiger offense finally broke out against Murray State after struggling against Arkansas.

One of the many disappointments for Missouri baseball (13-8) during its SEC-opening series against Arkansas was the performance of center fielder Kameron Misner, who went 0-for-12 in three loses.

Misner was far from the only Tiger who didn’t play to his full potential. Sophomore catcher and five-hole hitter Chad McDaniel could only pick up two hits in 12 at-bats. Sophomore second baseman Mark Vierling was 1-for-10.

In game one against Murray State, Vierling had a clutch RBI single in the eighth inning to bring home McDaniel in what became a 2-1 Mizzou victory.

Misner’s struggles, however, carried over to the first game against Murray State [8-12] as he went 0-for-4. When he lifted the third pitch he saw over the left-centerfield wall in MU’s 13-1 triumph over the Racers on Wednesday, he felt relieved to get the monkey off his back.

“I hate saying ‘slump’,” Misner said. “But it [is] definitely just getting out of the way of that whole mindset.”

The homer kicked off a three-run first inning. After Misner’s longball, junior designated hitter Peter Zimmermann, junior shortstop Chris Cornelius and McDaniel all walked, bringing up Vierling with two outs and the bases loaded. Vierling hit a line drive into the left-center gap. Murray State left fielder Jake Slunder appeared to make an inning-ending diving catch, put the ball popped out of his glove as it hit the grass. Two more runs crossed the plate and Vierling ended up on second with a double.

Mizzou put up another three-spot in the second inning, two of which came on a moon shot to centerfield off Zimmermann’s bat. It was Zimmermann’s third homer in as many games.

“I’m not going up there to steal bases,” Zimmermann said. “I’m not going up there to just hit ground balls. I don’t care if they shift me. I’m not going to try to hit a ground ball to the right side. I’m going to try to hit the ball over them, and hit it far. That’s what I’m here to do.”

In the third inning, MU scored three runs once again. This time, it was freshman outfielder Josh Holt Jr. providing the biggest hit. Holt stepped into the lineup as the Tigers’ leadoff hitter, a role that generally requires getting on base and being driven in by power hitters like Zimmermann. Holt did more than just what was required of him off of Murray State pitcher Luke Brown, putting a charge in a ball that crept over the 339 sign in right for his first collegiate round-tripper.

“I typically have the mindset of staying up the middle and homers come by accident and that was by accident,” he said. “I just got lucky and barrelled one up.”

Freshman Luke Mann got the nod as Mizzou’s starting pitcher. He gave up one run in two innings of work before leaving the game with no outs and two runners on in the third.

“I just didn’t think he was throwing the baseball like the way he’s capable of,” coach Steve Bieser said. “He wasn’t throwing through the baseball, too many walks. That’s not his game. When he’s on, he doesn’t walk guys.”

Forced to abandon his plan of using Mann for four or five innings, Bieser turned to freshman Trae Robertson to pick up the slack. Robertson got out of Mann’s jam in the third and pitched a clean inning of his own in the fourth.

“We wanted to keep Trae short, but I also wanted to get him more experience,” Bieser said. “Trae’s our only lefty in the bullpen, and we’ve got to get him some outings like that, where we can potentially come out of the bullpen on weekends.”

The Missouri lineup had one big inning left, and the team got some help from the Murray State defense, scoring, once again, three runs. McDaniel led off the inning with a walk. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on a passed ball before scoring on a sacrifice fly from freshman first baseman Cameron Swanger. The Tigers plated two more on a Vierling single that third baseman Cole Womack misplayed and a Paul Gomez walk to make the score 12-0.

Despite the offensive barrage, Bieser is keeping his expectations for Missouri’s SEC series against Ole Miss this weekend in check, acknowledging that the lineup’s success was just as much a result of Murray State’s pitching as Missouri’s hitting.

“Pitching, that’s the difference,” Bieser said with a chuckle. “It’s midweek pitching… good pitching is always gonna shut down good hitting as you get thinner. It’s the same way with us as you get down into our nine, 10, 11, 12 guys, the other team has more of an opportunity to score.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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