Missouri knows how to work its way on base.
After taking 277 walks in 59 games last season, Steve Bieser’s No. 24 Tigers (14-3) have put an even greater emphasis on composure at the plate in 2018. They went into Tuesday ranked fourth in the nation with 106 walks in just 16 games, and they combined seven more with a career-best eight innings from Tyler LaPlante on the bump to earn a 9-4 win over No. 20 Wichita State (12-3).
“We preach discipline for all of our hitters, one through nine,” Missouri coach Steve Bieser said. “We put nine disciplined hitters in our lineup and expect everybody to execute that same kind of game plan.”
Of the seven walks Missouri ground out on the night, four came in the first inning.
Connor Brumfield hit a liner just over Wichita State shortstop Trey Vickers’ glove for a single to begin the frame. A wild pitch moved Brumfield to second before Trey Harris struck out, but Kameron Misner, Brian Sharp, Brett Bond and Zach Hanna drew four-straight walks to drive in two and load the bases for Mark Vierling.
The two runs extended Missouri’s first inning scoring-streak to eight games, but the Tigers lost the chance to do more damage when Bond was doubled up on a Vierling fly out.
Missouri’s Tyler LaPlante held his own against a Shockers team that came in hitting .284. The southpaw allowed just a walk through 2.2 innings before giving up a double down the left field line to Vickers. But he then forced a groundout from Greyson Jenista to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third, control issues for Wichita State’s Preston Snavely struck again. After throwing 47 pitches through the first two innings, the righty hit Harris to lead off the inning and gave up a single to Sharp for the Mizzou’s third run of the game. Missouri’s hottest hitter was on again for the Tigers, reaching base four times while racking up two RBI.
Snavely got Bond to hit into a fielder’s choice for out No. 2 but was taken out before he could finish the frame. Tyler Davis, in from the bullpen for the Shockers, immediately hit Hanna in the the back to put runners on first and second, but a Vierling strike out sent the Tigers back onto the field.
LaPlante continued to impress through six innings, allowing just three hitters to reach base. The junior struck out four while forcing the Shockers into soft grounders and easy fly balls as he limited their offense.
In the sixth, Sharp proved he’s as dangerous on base as he is with the bat. He reached second and drove in Misner on an error by second baseman Jordan Boyer that stretched Mizzou’s lead to four, and he moved to third on a bunt-single by Bond. Keylan Kilgore came in to pitch for Wichita State, and a pick off attempt to first gave Sharp his chance.
Seeing the ball hit the ground and bounce away from first baseman Mason O’Brien, Sharp broke for home. O’Brien grabbed the ball and tried to beat Sharp to the plate, but he slid around the catcher to give Missouri a 5-0 lead.
“Once I saw the ball scramble away from the first baseman I just decided to take off,” Sharp said. “Coach (Lance) Rhodes was right there and he gave me the go, go, go, too.”
The Shockers finally got to LaPlante in the seventh. Dayton Dugas tripled with one out, and Noah Croft grounded out to second to bring home Wichita State’s first run. But that was all they could manage.
“I kind of felt like I had everything working,” LaPlante said about his pitch command. “Going further, I could tell I was getting a little bit more fatigued and was having a little bit more trouble controlling my fastball, but everything else — curveball, slider, changeup — was all feeling pretty good.”
The Tigers would add two more in the both the seventh and eighth to stretch the lead to 9-1, and the cushion would play a huge factor in a Wichita State rally in the ninth.
Bieser let LaPlante come out to finish the game, but he walked Jenista to start the inning and Bieser brought in Cameron Dulle.
Dulle struggled through the first two outs, giving up a double and a single to cut the lead to six. Dugas reached on a fielder’s choice at second for the first out and Croft walked to move him over. Bond, though, caught Dugas stealing third for out No. 2.
Two more walks from Dulle and a hit batter by new pitcher Nile Ball drove in Wichita State’s fourth run, but Ball struck Vickers out looking to seal Mizzou’s ninth-straight win.
Next up: Missouri will head to Baton Rouge to take on another ranked team, LSU, in its first series of SEC play. First pitch will be Friday at 6:30 p.m.