In retrospect, this game may not be all that surprising.
Only one of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s (1-4) starters came into Friday with a batting average above .235. The problem? The Retrievers were going up against Missouri’s Bryce Montes de Oca, a pitcher who had allowed just six hits in his first two outings and who can reach triple-digits with his fastball.
With 588 loyal Mizzou fans in attendance, three Tigers combined to give up just three walks over nine innings and threw the 10th no-hitter in Missouri (8-3) history in the 7-1 Tigers’ win.
“Bryce was very dominating,” Missouri coach Steve Bieser said. “(He had) a fastball anywhere from 95-99 tonight and was able to use his changeup enough and his slider was on. Just being able to use all of his pitches is really the main reason he was so successful.”
Montes de Oca was dealing to start the game, facing the minimum amount of batters through three innings. UMBC’s Zack Bright went up 3-0 in the second, but Montes de Oca came back with three straight strikes on the corner of the plate to take him down.
Meanwhile, Missouri’s lineup gave Montes de Oca an early cushion.
Center fielder Connor Brumfield was the first hitter for Mizzou and immediately took a walk. He then went from first to third on right fielder Trey Harris’ single to left center, and first baseman Kameron Misner knocked him in with an RBI grounder. Third baseman Brian Sharp came up with an RBI single the very next at-bat, and Missouri ended the inning with a two-run lead.
In the bottom of the third, Misner took no time at all to make UMBC’s Mitchell Wilson pay for throwing one down the middle. Misner sent the first pitch he saw over the right field wall for his third home run of the year, a shot that was gone as soon as it left the bat.
B3| DINGER! @KameronMisner97!— #MizzouBaseball (@MizzouBaseball) March 3, 2018
His third of the year. #Mizzou leads, 3-0. #MIZ #C2E ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/jsCwOSkmsB
Sharp added another single right after, but three straight outs ended the inning for the Tigers.
The play of the game came with no outs in the fourth on a dribbler up the first base line from the Retrievers’ Collin Stack.
As the ball rolled down the line, both Montes de Oca and Misner ran after the ball but neither could glove it. With nobody covering first and Stack about to run past him, Montes de Oca bare-handed the ball, reached out with his right hand and seemingly tagged Stack on the back. The first base umpire called him safe on the play, but the umpires discussed it near first base and eventually reversed the decision.
“I didn’t really intend to dive on it, but I made the play and that’s all that really matters,” Montes de Oca said.
He had no other problems through four, but the Retrievers finally got to him in the fifth.
The first batter he faced in the inning was Dalton Stewart. Montes de Oca battled but eventually gave Stewart a free pass, the first baserunner he had allowed all game. After getting Zack Bright to strikeout swinging for out No. 1, Montes de Oca walked Raven Beeman and threw a wild pitch to Christian Torres to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Montes de Oca wasn’t fazed, however, striking out Torres and getting Zack DeThomasis to ground out to keep the Retrievers off the scoreboard.
In the bottom of the inning, the Tigers would add two more, again off the bats of Misner and Sharp. Harris led off the inning with a walk, and a Misner liner to right-center made it all the way to the wall for an RBI triple. Sharp came up with another RBI groundout, and Missouri would go into the sixth up 5-0. Sharp continued his hot-streak over the last two weeks for Mizzou, raising his batting average to a scorching .545 with three hits on the day.
“I’m just taking it one at-bat at a time,” Sharp said. “I’m just trying to be aggressive to my pitch and trying to put good swings on everything.”
Montes de Oca cruised through the next two innings, going six up, six down in the sixth and seventh with four strikeouts. He’d get more help from his hitters in the bottom of the seventh, as the Tigers added two more runs off of doubles from Misner and Sharp and an RBI grounder from left fielder Zach Hanna.
However, with his pitch count at 98 and two more innings to play, Bieser decided to pull the redshirt junior for Giovanni Lopez. Montes de Oca ended his night with 12 strikeouts and just two walks, and he lowered his ERA to just 0.53 on the year.
“I knew when we took Bryce out that he had the no-hitter intact, but at 98 pitches he wasn’t getting through two more innings,” Bieser said. “Bryce is a very smart young man and he knows what’s at stake. He’s well aware of why we would do that at that point.”
Lopez, though, found himself in trouble right away. Lopez struck out Beeman to lead off the inning, but catcher Brett Bond couldn’t corral the ball and Beeman reached on a dropped third strike. Lopez then walked Torres, and two batters later, Mitchell Carroll hit an RBI grounder to finally end the shutout.
In the end, the run wouldn’t matter.
Lopez would get Stack to strikeout to end the inning, and a 1-2-3 inning from Nolan Gromacki in the ninth sealed it. Both Sharp and Misner went 3-for-4 with three RBI’s, but their stats were overshadowed by the Tigers’ first no-hitter since 2005.
Bryce Montes de Oca was the first #Mizzou pitcher to start a no-hitter since @Max_Scherzer. Here was his response after the game: pic.twitter.com/T5lA4m4IWy— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) March 3, 2018
Next up: Missouri and UMBC will meet again Saturday at Taylor Stadium at 2 p.m.