I wrote on Thursday that the experience of Mizzou’s elder statesmen would be key for a Tigers’ series victory against Florida International.
They proved me right.
Senior Trey Harris, junior Zach Hanna and sophomore Kameron Misner all had stellar performances at the plate, and the Tigers’ won two out of three games to earn their first series win of the year.
Friday’s game began slowly, with neither team reaching home early. Through three innings, both teams combined for just five hits. FIU’s Tyler Myrick had allowed five baserunners but matched that with five strikeouts, while Mizzou’s Bryce Montes de Oca was showing signs of the control problems that plagued him last season. He issued four walks before the fourth inning but managed to get out of trouble every time.
However, Montes de Oca again showed his control problems in the bottom of the fourth. After getting two quick outs, he walked the bases loaded before getting pulled for sophomore phenom T.J. Sikkema. Missouri coach Steve Bieser picked the lefty to be his top option out of the bullpen, and Sikkema validated his confidence by getting Christian Khawam to fly out to end the threat.
It wouldn’t be until the sixth inning that both teams finally broke through. In the top of the inning, Hanna took one down the left field line for his first home run of the season to put the Tigers up 1-0. The Panthers would get one right back in the bottom of the inning, however, when an RBI single from freshman Logan Allen tied up the score.
The turning point in the game came in the ninth. Mizzou wouldn’t get a single hit in the inning, but the Tigers scored two unearned runs with the help of an error, three walks and two wild pitches. Sikkema —who struck out seven over five innings— and junior Nile Ball combined to get the final three outs and Missouri walked away with a 3-1 win.
The script flipped on Saturday, at least on the Tigers’ side.
The Panthers brought Allen out to pitch the second game of the series against Mizzou’s Michael Plassmeyer, and Missouri immediately pounced on the inexperienced pitcher. The first four batters all reached base, culminating in an RBI single from senior Brett Bond to put Mizzou up two. Freshman Mark Vierling and senior Alex Samples both doubled later in the inning to plate two more, and the Tigers finished the inning with a four-run lead.
The next two frames were more of the same for Missouri, as the Tigers scored three runs in each with the help from seven hits, including Kameron Misner’s first home run of the year. FIU finally got one back in the bottom of the fourth, but that would end up being its only run of the game.
Mizzou, however, was not nearly done scoring.
The Tigers exploded for eight more runs in the fifth, stretching the lead to 19-1. Vierling homered in what would be a three-hit day, and Misner added his second bomb of the game. Mizzou would add three more in the seventh and held the Panthers scoreless in the last five innings to take a 22-1, series-clinching win. Harris was a big star in a game full of them for the Tigers on Saturday, going 4-7 with an RBI double and four runs.
Sunday’s game featured senior Andy Toelken and sophomore Nick MacDonald starting for Mizzou and FIU, but it was the Panthers who finally struck first. Austin Shenton took Toelken’s first pitch of the game to the left field bleachers to give FIU its first lead of the series. Neither team would push a run across the plate until Allen knocked in another on a groundout in the fourth, and the Panthers took a 2-0 lead into the fifth.
Missouri continued its fifth inning success from Saturday’s game, bringing in five runs to take its first lead of the game. The Tigers’ loaded up the bases before Harris was plunked by FIU’s Greyson Fletcher, driving in the first run of the inning. Misner then walked to plate another run, and Hanna kept up his outstanding play on the weekend with a bases-clearing double.
Toelken then got roughed up to start the bottom of the fifth, hitting a batter and giving up a dinger and a single in succession before being pulled for Cody Siebenberger. The redshirt sophomore would only face two hitters, allowing the second run of the inning before Bieser brought out Ball from the bullpen. Khawam immediately doubled off of Ball to drive in two more, but Ball managed to escape the inning without any more damage while the Panthers ended the frame with a 6-5 lead.
Missouri would only generate three more baserunners the rest of the game, and FIU put together a five-run eighth to seal Mizzou’s first loss of the season. Misner, who had reached base in nine of his first 12 plate appearances going into Sunday, walked his first four times up to bat before striking out in the ninth in the 11-5 loss to the Panthers.
Next up: Missouri will head to Coral Gables on Wednesday to take on the Miami Hurricanes.