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Early offense leads Missouri to sweep of La Salle

Mizzou scored in the first inning of all three games against the Explorers, setting the tone for a series sweep.

Early offense is a key contributor to success. Mizzou is proof of that concept.

The Tigers (13-3) went into this past weekend riding a five-game winning streak and had scored in the first inning in each of their last four games. That trend continued through three games against La Salle (4-10) as Missouri tallied eight total first-inning runs en route to a series sweep of the Explorers.

Game one on Friday saw Bryce Montes de Oca on the bump, looking to follow up on his performance from the previous Friday’s no-hitter against UMBC. After the righty sent the Explorers down in order to start the game, Missouri took the lead on two runs scored by Connor Brumfield and Trey Harris. Mizzou wouldn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the game, combining six more runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth to open the series with a 8-5 win.

The Explorers made Montes de Oca look human, tallying three runs on the redshirt junior through six innings. Montes de Oca again took a no-hitter into the fifth, but a two-run double from Brian Tagoe ended his streak of 11.1 innings without a hit. But early run support and big days at the plate from Brumfield, Kameron Misner, and Brett Bond contributed to the Missouri victory.

The first inning of Saturday’s first game mirrored Friday’s, as Michael Plassmeyer sent the first three La Salle batters down in order before the Tigers took control in the bottom of the inning.

Harris started the inning with a single up the middle before Misner knocked him in on a double to left center. Brian Sharp then drove Misner in from third on a single to left center, and Bond knocked him in two batters later on a double to right.

An RBI groundout from Tony Ortiz ended a streak of five-straight hits for Missouri but gave the Tigers a four-run lead. Plassmeyer wouldn’t allow the Explorers to make any sort of comeback, striking out 10 over eight strong innings in the Tigers’ 7-1 win to start the double header.

If you guessed that La Salle went three up, three down, to start the second game of Saturday’s double-header, you were right. The Explorers failed to create any offense in the first inning as Andy Toelken started off a masterful performance with two Ks through one, and the Tigers again pounced on La Salle in their half of the first.

Harris, hitting lead-off for the first time this season, started it off with a single. After a Misner double moved him to third, Sharp drove him in with grounder to first to put Missouri on the board. Zach Hanna singled through the gap to bring in Misner, and the Tigers again held a two-run lead after one.

The Explorers would scatter just seven baserunners throughout the game, and Toelken gave up just two hits in six innings to lead Mizzou to the 7-0 win.

Missouri, winner of eight straight and undefeated at home, has one more non-conference game before beginning SEC play on Friday. The Tigers will host Wichita State on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the final game of its eight-game home stand.

Mizzou has received solid production on both sides of the ball and finally got a big contribution from Bond against La Salle after he had struggled to begin the season. He came into the weekend batting just .217 in 46 at-bats, but a 6-for-9 display with four RBI against the Explorers suggests that the senior has arrived at the right time.