Spring break brief: MU baseball finishes week 5-2-1

The Tigers took home three wins over ranked opponents during the stretch.

Missouri baseball played eight games during MU spring break, finishing the stretch 5-2-1. The long week started March 22 with a three-game series at home against Mississippi. The team then traveled through Texas on a five-game road trip.

March 22 to 24 vs Mississippi

Before heading south for the week, Missouri (18-10-1, 3-5-1) won its first SEC series of the year at home against then-No. 20 Mississippi. After a winless trip to then-No. 10 Arkansas the weekend prior, the Tigers needed a spark to get back on track in conference play.

The offense supplied that spark in the fifth inning of Friday night’s series opener when freshman Josh Holt Jr. doubled to drive in senior Paul Gomez. The extra base hit gave Missouri a 2-1 lead that would prove to be the final scoreline in the Tigers’ first SEC win of the year. Junior pitcher Jacob Cantleberry earned the win, striking out eight Ole Miss batters in 6.1 innings while giving up the Rebels’ lone run.

Ole Miss pulled even in the series on Saturday behind the dominance of freshman pitcher Doug Nikhazy. The southpaw starter allowed just five baserunners over 7.2 scoreless innings as the Rebels took a 3-0 victory. Missouri junior T.J. Sikkema could not match his opponent’s brilliance on the mound, giving up three runs on six hits in a seven-inning start.

The loss was MU’s first of the season at Taylor Stadium and set up a winner-take-all series finale for Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s rubber game was more offensive than the series’ first two contests combined. The Tigers and Rebels combined for 13 runs on 18 hits, with Missouri earning an 8-5 victory after bursting into the lead with a four-run fourth inning.

Junior Peter Zimmermann put Missouri ahead with an RBI single in the fourth before junior Chris Cornelius broke the game open with a three-run blast. The explosive inning gave the Tigers a 7-3 lead they would not relinquish. Senior Jordan Gubelman shut the door on the Rebels with two clean frames in the eighth and ninth to earn the save.

March 26 to 27 vs UTSA and Incarnate Word

As MU students left campus for spring break, so went the team, traveling to San Antonio, Texas, for the first two of five games in the Lone Star State. The Tigers went 2-0 in their midweek games.

In its 12-11, extra inning victory against UT-San Antonio on March 26, Missouri completed a comeback from down three runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. The winning run scored in the top of the 12th inning on a sacrifice fly from sophomore Mark Vierling.

Coach Steve Bieser used eight pitchers in the game. Sophomore Trey Dillard was tabbed as the winning pitcher after a scoreless 11th inning. Junior Art Joven was awarded the save. The victory would be the first of three extra-inning games during the road trip.

The Missouri offense put up a double-digit run total for the second day in a row, in route to defeating Incarnate Word 11-7 to finish the San Antonio leg of their roadtrip

Starting Wednesday’s game less than 24 hours after recording the final out against UTSA, Joven went five innings, giving up one earned run while allowing just two hits. After Joven exited the game, sophomore Luke Anderson surrendered the final five runs the Cardinals would score.

Two insurance runs for Missouri would come on a bases-loaded walk by Zimmermann and a wild pitch that scored senior Connor Brumfield in the following at-bat.

March 29 to 31 at Texas A&M

After its Incarnate Word victory, Missouri traveled northeast to College Station, Texas, to face No. 11 Texas A&M. The series gave the Tigers another test against a ranked opponent.

Cantleberry went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs while striking out eight. With Senior Cameron Dulle on the mound and a 3-2 Tiger lead in the eighth inning, the Aggies took advantage of two errors, two walks and a wild pitch to put up five runs on just two hits. Mizzou fell 7-3.

Game two brought more of the same tight, evenly-matched baseball that was plentiful during spring break. Senior left-hander Tyler LaPlante pitched nine innings and allowed one earned run, but Mizzou still found itself down 2-0 with two outs in the ninth as reserve outfielder Thomas Broyles stepped to the plate with a runner on first. Broyles, who only started three games before the series, lifted a fly ball to right field that sneaked over the wall for an improbable game-tying home run.

Six innings later, Vierling singled home Cornelius for the winning run in the 15th inning.

The win set up a rubber match on Sunday, which true to form, was a tightly-contested game. Missouri scored in the first and fourth innings on singles from Cornelius and Gomez, but gave the runs back on more fielding woes. Junior Kameron Misner, playing first base instead of his usual centerfield, committed an error allowing TA&M to score two in the bottom of the fourth.

The ninth inning came and went with the game still tied, and the teams again went to extra innings. With neither team able to push across a run in the 10th, the game finished a 2-2 tie.

The nearly unprecedented result stemmed from the Tigers needing to catch their plane leaving Houston that afternoon. It was the first tie for Missouri since March 7, 2004.

In total, Missouri went 5-2-1 during break. Its next game is against Saint Louis University on Tuesday, April 2 at 6 p.m. CDT.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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