Weather plays big role in MU baseball’s weekend series against Northwestern

The Tigers’ 13-run differential between Friday and Saturday was directly impacted by the weather conditions.
Designed by Corey Hadfield

Hitting with two outs in the first inning Saturday, junior Kameron Misner popped a ball to right-center field. Camping under the ball, the center and right fielders could only watch as the ball got held up in the wind and carried over the wall for a home run.

The night before, he barely missed a home run as the wind blew in from left field. The stark difference in the wind direction was visibly apparent for Missouri baseball (8-5) in its 3-2 and 16-11 wins against Northwestern (4-8) on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“[Friday] it was blowing in, so nothing went out,” senior Tony Ortiz said after the game Saturday. “Today it is blowing out, so you never know, if the wind was blowing out yesterday, balls probably could have gone out.”

The strong winds that blow through Taylor Stadium are nothing new. Prior to its season opening series in Jacksonville, Florida, coach Steve Bieser talked about his field being a pitchers’ park early in the season, mentioning the wind’s ability to keep the ball within the outfield fences.

The pitchers’ park came to life Friday, resulting in a pitching duel that didn’t see a ball leave the yard.

In its 3-2 win, Missouri leaned on its ace, junior TJ Sikkema. The lefty went seven innings, giving up one earned run on one walk and five hits while striking out six batters.

The Tigers’ three runs came in the sixth and seventh innings, and while the Wildcats put up a run in the top of the eighth, they couldn’t come back to tie the game.

Bieser has emphasized the importance of moving runners and playing small ball throughout the season, and while the weather wasn’t any help, his team got the job done.

“It’s all contagious,” he said after the game Friday. “When you start hitting with runners in scoring position, you just start hitting with runners in scoring position. We know it’s there. We know we’ve got to do a better job with it, and sometimes you put more pressure on yourself in those situations.”

On Saturday, it was there, with a little help. Unlike Friday, the wind was blowing out of the stadium, and with that came the long ball.

“It was a tough day to pitch, great day to hit,” Bieser said.

Misner’s wind-lofted home run in the first inning was followed by a two-run home run from Ortiz to the same part of the park in the second inning. Northwestern countered in the third inning to tie the game at three. In the bottom half of the inning, a single from freshman Luke Mann scored senior Connor Brumfield and broke the tie game. From there, an onslaught quickly ensued.

The third inning mercifully ended with a strikeout after five runs crossed the plate. Along with Mann’s RBI single, Cornelius added Missouri’s third right-center field home run of the afternoon and Ortiz belted his second two-run homer of the game to the opposite field.

“Two strikes, I was just trying to find barrel,” Ortiz said. “It’s not like I tried to drive something, I just tried to get a barrel on it and hit it hard somewhere.”

The weather wasn’t done throwing curveballs. During the sixth and seventh innings, the wind howled as the rain came down in sheets, at one point causing a stoppage in the game as umpires got together to discuss the possibility of a delay. Ortiz took the opportunity to go hide behind Northwestern’s dugout and away from the elements for a brief moment.

“That wind was pretty brutal, honestly,” Ortiz said. “The rain was hitting me hard in the face, so I kind of put my head down until the pitch was thrown.”

Finishing the final two innings without any rain, Northwestern tallied four runs in the top of the ninth inning to pull the game closer, but to no avail.

All nine Missouri starters recorded at least one hit, and the team collected 17 total in the game. It was an offensive performance that was aided by the weather conditions but started with a mindset.

“You gotta play to whatever the elements are,” Bieser said. “Yesterday, you know it’s going to be a tight game because of the weather. Today, you knew the ball was going to fly. You just gotta let your guys get up there and swing the bat and get off good swings.”

Under clear skies Sunday, Missouri completed the sweep, beating Northwestern 9-4 in the final game of the series. The weather may have cleared up, but there were lingering effects of the wind and rain Saturday.

“I think I got a cold from last night,” Ortiz said of the game Saturday.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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