Wilhelm, Joven put up goose eggs after the first as Missouri wins sixth straight

Peter Zimmermann notched his seventh long ball to tie the game early.

True freshman pitcher Shane Wilhelm stepped onto the rubber for his first collegiate start, and encountered what every young starter fears when he did — a walk, a single and a line shot into the left-field bullpen that put Missouri (10-5) in a 3-0 hole against Northern Illinois (7-9) on Tuesday night before the Tigers picked up a bat.

When he stepped onto the rubber in the second, however, the game was tied again. He hit his spots better and battled through three more innings that rendered zero runs. The rest of the Tigers took over from there, riding shutdown relief pitching and situational hitting to a 6-3 win, their sixth in a row.

“I know our offense is going to score runs, it’s just a matter of time,” Wilhelm said. “It’s kind of nice to answer right back and make it a new game, start from scratch.”

Wilhelm, his teammates and coach Steve Bieser recognized that the freshman didn’t have his best stuff in his first start, but credited his ability to fight through it and lauded his potential.

“He was missing the zone a little bit early on and that’s not typical for him, so I know he was just having a little out of body experience early, but he really settled in for those last three innings,” Bieser said. “Putting up those zeros, he threw really well.”

Missouri may use Wilhelm as a midweek starter again, never throwing more than the four innings he tossed against NIU. Still, Bieser still likes him best out of the bullpen, where he’s been effective for long stretches in relief.

The tying runs in the first came off of a three-run bomb of the Tigers’ own, courtesy of cleanup hitter Peter Zimmermann. He took advantage of a hanging slider and watched it all the way as it cleared the Sports Xtra with Chris Gervino sign in deep left field.

NIU starting pitcher Paul Turelli beat Zimmermann with the first two pitches, a slider that he chased and a fastball with which he couldn’t catch up, but he made a massive mistake on the third and the Tigers’ greatest source of power made him pay.

“He just hung one and I got a good piece of it and I kind of knew it when I hit it,” Zimmermann said. “The very important thing though, like honest to God, is how good are the at-bats Mark [Vierling] and Chad [McDaniel] took in front of me.”

“Yeah, Pete’s done such a good job in his approach at the plate,” Bieser said. “You know it’s a very good approach and he’s attacking the right pitches and he’s just a smart hitter and to have that type of guy in your lineup that can help the other guys feed off of him. I really enjoy Pete in that four-hole.”

No one scored between the first inning and the fifth, when the Tigers took the lead for good off of a Vierling sacrifice fly and a McDaniel ground ball single up the middle. They were able to shut down the Huskies after Wilhelm left thanks to a rebound performance from Art Joven, who threw four innings and allowed no runs and no hits.

He gave way to closer Trey Dillard, who shut it down in the ninth, but Joven’s dominance was the main reason NIU’s run total stayed at three. And it was one outing after Joven came in against Texas, threw six straight balls including one that hit a batter, and came out.

“It was huge,” Joven said. “I just kind of picked everything up and just kind of changed my mentality and just attacked tonight.”

Joven has been lambasted to start the season, entering Tuesday night with an ERA over 16, but he was unhittable against the Huskies. He located the fastball well and his breaking material was at its peak.

“Yeah, really good to see Art come in and throw the ball like that,” Bieser said. “That’s what we expect out of Art. He’s an experienced guy, an older guy, and we expect him to be more consistent than what he’s been this year, but he’s settling in and if we can get him lined out it’s gonna definitely help our pitching staff.” The Tigers will play the finale of their two-game set against Northern Illinois on Wednesday night at Taylor Stadium. Wilhelm and Joven will presumably be unavailable, and the starter is currently TBA.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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