Mizzou entered Friday’s contest against Georgia desperate for a win after a brutal stretch in the SEC. The Tigers looked to end a six game losing streak, which is the third separate streak of at least five consecutive losses this season. Georgia entered the game in opposite fashion as winners of six of its last eight games including a series win over top-ranked Vanderbilt.
Sophomore Seth Halvorsen took the hill for Mizzou in his 10th start of the season to try to slow down the red-hot Bulldogs. Halvorsen pitched as well as he has all season to propel the Tigers to a 6-4 victory to end the six-game skid.
Early offense got the Tigers going, as leadoff man Clayton Peterson doubled and was then driven in by Andrew Keefer two batters later. Georgia starter Ryan Webb got into more trouble in the fourth when Cameron Swanger hit a two-run-homer to left to make it 3-0.
Georgia was held without a hit until the fifth, when a Fernando Gonzalez single drove in Garrett Blaylock to make it 3-1. That was the only damage done off of Halvorsen, who allowed one hit, one run, five walks and six strikeouts in seven innings.
Seven innings is tied for the longest outing of Halvorsen’s career and his 114 pitches set a career high. Other than five walks and two hit batters, Halvorsen was tremendous.
“I had a solid three pitches today and felt like I did a good job getting ahead in the count,” Halvorsen said. “I still felt like I was beating myself by walking guys, but other than that I felt solid.”
Halvorsen got through the sixth inning and was sitting at 91 pitches, when a pair of insurance runs were provided by Tre Morris. Morris got a hold of a fastball on a 2-2 count and homered to left field, increasing Mizzou’s lead to 5-1. Torin Montgomery scored on the play after reaching on one of his three walks in the game.
“When you’ve got that insurance cushion you always feel good,” Halvorsen added. “There’s definitely less pressure in those later innings when you’re pitching with a big lead.”
As for Tre Morris, the quality of at-bats that he’s put together this season has impressed. His second home run of the season came at a critical time for the designated hitter to help ensure a victory.
“Tre’s been outstanding,” manager Steve Bieser said. “ I would love it if everyone in the lineup could have an at-bat like his in the sixth.”
In the top of the seventh, Halvorsen threw 23 pitches and struck out three batters to preserve the 5-1 lead. Joshua Day singled home Mike Coletta in the bottom half to lead 6-1, then the game was handed over to Konnor Ash in the top of the eighth.
Ash got through a clean eighth, but Georgia made things interesting in the final frame. Riley King walked and Ben Anderson singled to get the Bulldogs’ rally started. With two outs, Josh McAllister drilled the first pitch of his at-bat to left field to cut the lead to 6-4. The three-run-homer was enough to put Mizzou on edge, but Ash struck out Cole Tate to end the rally and the game.
It was a rare conference win for the Tigers and a rare complete performance. The win improves the Tigers to 12-23 and 5-11 in the SEC, improving their home record to 5-7. Halvorsen (4-2) earned his fourth win of the year, while Ryan Webb (2-3) picked up the loss. Georgia fell to 24-13 and 7-9 in the SEC.
“I wanted to see exactly what we saw today,” Bieser said. “It was a complete game and Seth was in a complete groove. Once I saw how Seth was working the strike zone I knew he was going to have a good day. The unselfish at bats that guys were taking today was huge as well.”
While it has been a tough season for the Tigers, there’s still a lot of season left.
“I’ve believed all along that we have a ton to play for to end the year,” Bieser said. “Three of our last five series are at home and hopefully the ball can bounce our way a bit. You have to force things as well and be aggressive and we did that today.”
Mizzou looks to build off of the victory in the second and third games of the series on Saturday and Sunday. A win in either game would earn Mizzou its second SEC series win of the season.