The gauntlet of the SEC is tough for every team, especially one that has struggled like Missouri. Mizzou finally got a break from conference play after dropping two of three at 11th ranked South Carolina, losing the series finale 13-4 on Sunday. The Tigers’ one-game non-conference series didn’t come against any regular opponent, however.
In-state rival Missouri State made the three-hour drive to Columbia for the first time in two years. The rivalry didn’t happen due to last season’s cancellation, but it has been played every other year since 2011. Mizzou led the all-time series 9-8 heading into Tuesday night’s matchup.
Struggles on the Mound
For Mizzou, it’s the same struggles that continue to plague the team. Walking batters has been a tremendous issue for Tigers’ pitchers, and it was a big contributor in a 7-5 loss.
All year, few pitchers have been able to consistently stay in games, and Trae Robertson was another guy unable to have a sustainable start. Robertson struggled immediately, surrendering two hits and two runs in the first inning. He failed to pitch more than two innings, finishing with three walks, four hits and three runs given up. Five Tiger relievers finished the game and only gave up four hits, but combined for seven walks. The ten walks moved the season total to 216, which is the most given up by a Division I team this season.
Brandt Belk scored the first run of the game for Mizzou on a wild pitch in the fifth. It cut the Bears’ lead to 6-1 to finally provide some offense to try to make things competitive.
No pitcher went more than two innings on the night for the Bears, causing sudden changes for the Tiger hitters. Missouri State threw seven guys on the night to keep the Tigers offense on their toes. The strategy eventually hurt them late in the game.
“Usually when you throw six or seven guys there’s going to be a guy that doesn’t have his stuff and gives up a big inning,” manager Steve Bieser said.
Trey Ziegenbein was the one without his best stuff on Tuesday night for the Bears.
Ziegenbein had a 7-1 lead to work with after a Dakota Katowski solo home run in the top of the seventh. He pitched a clean bottom of the seventh, but got into a lot of trouble in the eighth. Tre Morris hit a two-run double off of Zeigenbein to make it a 7-3 ball game to alert the Bears. Joshua Day singled in a run a few batters later, ending Ziegenbein’s day. He gave up three hits, four runs, and two walks in 1.2 innings to allow Mizzou back in the game.
Hayden Juenger relieved him in the eighth with two outs, but allowed an RBI-single to Torin Montgomery to charge a fourth run to Zigenbein’s total. Day was thrown out on the play to end the inning and prevent the Tigers from making it 7-6. Juenger then closed out the ninth to preserve a 7-5 win, striking out two batters in the 1-2-3 inning.
Logan Wiley (4-1) earned the win despite only pitching the first inning. Robertson (0-2) received the loss.
Too Little, Too Late
Had Mizzou been able to see the same guy multiple times through, the outcome may have been different.
“It is a really tough challenge for a hitter since you’re always seeing somebody different and you always have to have different timing,” Bieser said. “Our biggest issue was we just gave up too much early in the game and couldn’t come back from that.”
The loss is the third in a row for Mizzou (11-20, 4-8 SEC), and it also marked the 20th time the team has given up at least seven runs in a game this year. Mizzou is 2-18 in those games. As a team, the Tigers are giving up 7.8 runs per game (7.35 team ERA) while also allowing 7.2 walks per game.
Missouri State (12-10, 2-2 MVC) got its first win over the Tigers since 2017 to even the all-time series at 9-9. The two teams play again in Springfield on April 20.
While it was another loss, Mizzou should be encouraged with some of their key contributors. Torin Montgomery and Joshua Day each extended their hitting streaks to six games, while Tre Morris had his fourth multi-hit game of the year. Montgomery has also gotten two or more hits in four of his past five games. Andrew Keefer impressed on the mound with a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts. It was quite a first ever collegiate pitching appearance for the usual outfielder, who can maybe provide a spark in a reliever role down the stretch.