Tiger baseball handles Illini in St. Louis

The rivals played at the new Busch Stadium with wooden bats.
Missouri junior starting pitcher Zack Hardoin delivers a pitch during the game against Illinois on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. Hardoin allowed all four runs in the 7-4 victory over Illinois. Mike Ziegler/Special to The Maneater

ST. LOUIS — Missouri beat Illinois 7-4 Wednesday night in a game played with wooden bats at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Tigers now lead the all-time series with Illinois 11-10 and also beat the Fighting Illini last season by a score of 12-5 in a wood bat game in Sauget, Ill.

Wednesday was the first time Missouri and Illinois played their annual game at the new Busch Stadium.

"It was awesome," freshman centerfielder Blake Brown said about the experience. "Getting to stand in the same box as Albert Pujols and getting to roam centerfield like that, it was awesome."

The two rivals play annual games in St. Louis for football and basketball as well, both of which MU won this season.

"I hope its something that they have an interest in continuing," coach Tim Jamieson said.

Illinois scored all its runs in the second inning off three RBI base hits and a double-steal. Junior Zack Hardoin, the starting pitcher for MU, allowed all four runs and junior Phil McCormick replaced him with one out in the second inning. McCormick recorded his fourth win of the season after allowing two hits in one and two-thirds innings of work.

Missouri used a different pitcher in each of the last six innings of the game, and none of them allowed a hit. Sophomore Jeff Emens recorded the save, his third of the season.

Despite making four errors, the Tigers defense made some tough plays to help keep Illinois from getting a hit in the final six innings. Freshman second baseman Eric Garcia made two impressive plays on balls hit up the middle to steal hits away from Illini hitters in the eighth inning.

"Eric Garcia played like a big league second baseman today," Jamieson said.

Most of the Tigers scoring came in the first three innings. Junior catcher Brett Nicholas hit an RBI double in the first inning, and senior first baseman Aaron Senne hit an RBI single in the second inning.

The Tigers took the lead for good in the third inning after an RBI double by Brown and a two RBI base hit by senior shortstop Michael Liberto. The Tigers added two insurance runs in the eighth inning.

The Missouri players, who will also get to play at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City later this season, had been really looking forward to this game.

"We were all counting down the days to get to play here," Senne said.

Jamieson said getting to play in Busch Stadium was a valuable experience for his players.

"This is a lifetime memory for these guys, not only did they get to play here but they also beat a rival here," Jamieson said.

The game Wednesday night wrapped up the midweek for the Tigers, who also beat Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 14-3 at home Tuesday night. Junior Jeff Scardino allowed three runs and struck out three in seven innings of work in that game. Eight of the nine Missouri starters had at least one hit.

Missouri, now 17-11 overall and 2-4 in the Big 12, will aim to improve its conference record in a series at Oklahoma this weekend.

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