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Unsung heroes get Missouri over the hump against No. 25 Missouri State

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With Mizzou’s top-hitters struggling, the bottom of the order shined in a much-needed win over the Bears.

For the second mid-week game in a row, Missouri coach Steve Bieser pulled starting pitcher Tyler LaPlante after the third inning, even though he had let up just one run.

It worked out in Mizzou’s favor last week, as six relievers combined to allow just one run and five baserunners over six innings. On Tuesday against No. 25 Missouri State, though, the plan backfired, as the first four relievers allowed five runs in just 2.2 innings to give the Bears a 6-5 lead.

Jordan Gubelman would be the last pitcher Bieser called out of the pen, though, and Missouri (24-9) combined 3.1 stellar innings from Gubelman with a go-ahead double from Chad McDaniel in the top of the seventh to take an 8-6 victory over MSU (22-8).

The Tigers’ bats came to life early as they put up a three-spot to lead off the game, but it would be an unexpected bat that gave Missouri an advantage.

Hitting just .263 heading into Tuesday, left fielder Zach Hanna came up to bat with two outs and first basemen Brian Sharp and catcher Brett Bond in scoring position. Hanna worked a 2-2 count against MSU’s Austin Knight before smacking one through the right side to put Mizzou up 2-0.

He moved into scoring position on a wild pitch before making it all the way home on Alex Samples’ double to left center. The Tigers went out on the field for the bottom of the inning with a three-run lead.

Meanwhile, LaPlante was dealing. He sent the Bears down in order and ended the first with back-to-back strikeouts before giving up just a single while striking out another pair in the second.

In the third, the Tigers got back on board with another huge hit from Hanna. After Bond flew out to start the inning, Hanna stepped up for his second at-bat against Knight. He took a 1-2 pitch deep to left for just his second home run of the season and first since Opening Day.

In the bottom of the inning, MSU finally found a way to get to LaPlante. After retiring the first two batters, LaPlante gave up a five-pitch walk to Hunter Steinmetz. This would prove costly for the lefty, as Jeremy Eierman roped an RBI-double to left center to get the Bears within three. LaPlante would get out of the inning without anymore damage, but that was all Bieser needed to see before going to his bullpen.

The fourth brought more of the same, as both the Tigers and Bears were able to put a run on the board.

Shortstop Chris Cornelius knocked a one-out single through the left side and made it all the way to third on a passed ball and an error by catcher Drew Millas. Centerfielder Connor Brumfield then drew a walk, which brought MSU coach Keith Guttin out of the dugout to pull Knight for Jake Fromson. Right fielder Trey Harris laid down a bunt to bring in Cornelius from third, but Fromson got Sharp to groundout to end the bleeding.

Luke Anderson came in to pitch for Missouri in the bottom of the inning but couldn’t keep the Tigers’ lead at four. With Ben Whetstone taking second on a strikeout, MSU’s Jack Duffy ripped a single to left to knock him in and trim the lead back to three. Anderson struck out Jordan Fitzpatrick to end the frame, his third strikeout in his lone inning of work.

The Bears flipped the script on Missouri in the middle innings, pushing across one run in the fourth against Luke Anderson and two in both the fifth and sixth innings (against Giovanni Lopez and Ryan Rickett, respectively) to take a one-run lead. But Bieser’s insertion of Gubelman on the mound with two outs in the sixth breathed new life into a struggling Missouri team. He got a huge swinging strikeout on a pitch in the dirt to end a first-and-third threat for the Bears, sending his team back into the dugout for an eventual seventh-inning outburst.

A summary of the seventh:

  • Hanna was hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning to keep the inning alive.
  • Samples singled to left to set the stage for the biggest at-bat of the night.
  • McDaniel cracked a double to left on the second pitch he saw, driving in Hanna and moving Samples over to third.
  • Fitzpatrick committed a fielding error in left, giving Samples the chance to take home and give the lead back to Mizzou.
  • The Tigers would add another run on an RBI-double from Cade Bormett.

That last run wouldn’t be needed as Gubelman continued to shine on the mound. The State College of Florida transfer was dominant in 3.1 innings of work, striking out four and allowing just one walk to seal Missouri’s victory.

With the Tigers’ top-four batters (Sharp, Bond, Harris and Kameron Misner) combining to go just 2-for-14, Missouri needed to ride the bats of its lesser-known players. Hanna, Samples and McDaniel would answer the call, though, going a combined 6-for-11 and driving in five RBI to help steal one in Springfield.

Next up: Missouri will head to Gainesville, Florida for a weekend set with the top-ranked Gators. First pitch will be Friday at 5:30 p.m.