Offense squanders opportunities, MU baseball swept by Arkansas in Fayetteville

The Tigers came crashing down in their first SEC series after a successful homestand.

In its final game of a three-game series in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Missouri baseball came within striking distance of stealing a win from the No. 10 Razorbacks.

Hit by a pitch in the top of the ninth inning, sophomore Mark Vierling got on base with one out, bringing up junior Peter Zimmermann. On the third pitch of the at-bat, Zimmermann launched a ball over the center field fence for a home run, miraculously tying the game at two runs a piece.

In the bottom of the ninth, Arkansas proved why it’s a top 10 power in the country. The Tigers’ senior pitcher Cameron Dulle surrendered a single to the first batter of the frame during his third inning of work. Following a pop-up bunt for the first out, catcher’s interference was called, putting runners on first and second. A poked single in the next at-bat brought in the winning run for the Hogs.

"It was a very disappointing outcome,” coach Steve Bieser said in a press release Sunday. “I thought we played really well. We made some team mistakes which are unacceptable. We gave some extra outs. Those are things that can't continue to happen and it was the difference in the ballgame."

The ninth inning Sunday encapsulated a broader theme for Missouri (11-8, 0-3 SEC) in the series. The Tigers were swept by Arkansas (17-2, 3-0 SEC) in tight, low-scoring games. The Razorbacks won two of the three games by one run.

Missouri entered the weekend having scored 55 runs in its last four games with an average of 13.75 runs per game. The Tigers put up 13.75 fewer than that in game one at Baum-Walker Stadium on Friday.

Vierling and sophomore Chad McDaniel had the only hits for the Tigers against Arkansas starting pitcher Isaiah Campbell, who fanned 11 in seven innings.

In his first career SEC start, junior Jacob Cantleberry was strong, allowing two runs in six innings. The first run came on a bases-loaded walk in the first inning. The second was scored on a sacrifice fly.

Despite Cantleberry’s effort, the lefty wasn’t rewarded, receiving zero run support. Unable to find an answer to Arkansas’ pitching staff, the Tigers lost 2-0.

“Those are such quality arms that Arkansas threw at us tonight,” Bieser said in a release Friday. “Campbell was on top of his game. He threw some big league stuff at us tonight. He started us soft then pumped 93, 94 miles per hour at us. We had a tough time adjusting to it.”

Saturday brought more of the same for the Tigers. Starting pitcher T.J. Sikkema went eight innings and allowed three earned runs. Again, the bats couldn’t get the job done, putting up three runs on seven hits in a 4-3 loss.

Arkansas scored in the first inning on a throwing error by junior Chris Cornelius. The Razorbacks added to their lead in the second and fourth innings on a sacrifice fly and single, both coming from outfielder Christian Franklin.

Missouri got back into the game in the fifth inning on a single from freshman Josh Holt Jr., and came within one run in the eighth off a double from freshman Luke Mann and a Cornelius single to make the score 4-3.

When crunch time came in their final ups, the Tigers couldn’t capitalize. Arkansas reliever Matt Cronin retired the side in the ninth to close out the game.

“In conference games you have to be sharp for nine innings,” Bieser said in a press release Saturday. “We weren’t very competitive with our at-bats. But what can you say about T.J.? He didn’t have his best stuff today, but still battled all the way through this game.”

Missouri’s extended outings from its starters continued Sunday behind the arm of senior Tyler LaPlante. Giving up one earned run over six innings, LaPlante exited the game with his team behind 2-0.

With Zimmermann’s ninth inning heroics, a win quickly came back into view. A half inning and a walk-off single later, the Tigers were on their way back to Columbia, Missouri the losers of three straight games.

“We need some guys to 'clutch up' and get that clutch hit,” Bieser said in a press release. “We had Arkansas on the ropes all game and weren't able to put them away. We should've put it away early."

Missouri will return home for a two-game series Tuesday and Wednesday against Murray State. Tuesday’s first pitch is at 6:30 p.m.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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