Through two games and 16 offensive innings against Vanderbilt, Missouri has recorded zero extra-base hits. In fact, the Tigers only recorded eight hits total, and three of them didn’t leave the infield.
“We haven’t been scoring a lot of runs,” Bieser said. “The fact that we can score runs without hits — we drew five walks and we had some timely hitting and we had a hit-and-run that work to get some people into scoring position. You put those guys in position enough, you’re gonna come through with a hit.”
While small ball is not the most-desired approach, three of the Mizzou’s walks on Friday came in the bottom of the eighth, and two scored on Mark Vierling’s first hit in April to lead Missouri (27-12, 8-9 SEC) to a game two win over Vanderbilt (23-16, 9-8 SEC).
Tyler LaPlante took the ball to start the game for Mizzou, and he was all Bieser could ask for, retiring the first six batters while striking out two. In the bottom of the second, LaPlante’s offense gave him some backup.
After leading off the second with a single on Thursday, Cade Bormet did the same on Friday. Matt Berler then put one on the ground and reached first on a error by Vanderbilt’s Jayson Gonzalez. Connor Brumfield ripped one at pitcher Patrick Raby, who got a glove on it but let the ball bounce away just enough to allow everyone to reach safely.
Chris Cornelius grounded a slow bouncer to Gonzalez at third, and, just as he had the previous game, Bormet scored to give Missouri the 1-0 lead. With runners on second and third and a chance to do more damage, Brian Sharp struck out to end the threat.
The 1-0 lead wouldn’t last, as Austin Martin knocked in Philip Clarke to tie the score in the top of the third.
Both LaPlante and Raby made quick work of the fourth and fifth, but LaPlante found himself in trouble with one out in the sixth. Pat DeMarco worked a full count against the lefty before taking ball four. Two pitches later, LaPlante plunked Stephen Scott, warranting a visit to the mound.
Gonzalez ripped one up the middle that looked like it would give Vanderbilt the lead, but Chris Cornelius scooped the ball, stepped on second and fired to first in time to end the inning.
For the second straight game, Missouri’s starter ended the sixth inning with 100 pitches, and again Bieser didn’t hesitate to go to his bullpen. He brought in Bryce Montes de Oca, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday with a stiff neck.
Montes de Oca starting the seventh strong, generating two straight ground balls, but he gave up a single from Ty Duvall, and on the ensuing at-bat from Martin, he threw three pitches in the dirt to let Duvall reach third. But he rallied, blowing strike three past Martin on a full-count to escape the jam.
In the top of the eighth, after walking Connor Kaiser and almost picking him off at first, Montes de Oca gave up a single to DeMarco to put runners on the corners with one out. DeMarco would steal second to put two men in scoring position, but Montes de Oca recorded the two biggest strikeouts of the night to keep the game tied.
“It’s a little different starting,” Montes de Oca said. “You get a lot more energy, kind of a little bit more pressure but I had a lot of fun doing it.”
The small-ball game came back again in a huge way for Missouri in the bottom of the eighth.
Zach King came on in relief of Raby, who’d thrown 115 pitches, and proceeded to load the bases on walks to Cornelius, Harris and pinch-hitter Chad McDaniel. Tyler Brown came in and struck out Bond, bringing up another pinch-hitter in Mark Vierling — who hadn’t gotten a hit in his last 21 at-bats — to face new pitcher Jackson Gillis. On a 2-2 pitch, Vierling smacked one through the left side to plate Cornelius and Harris and give the Tigers a 3-1 lead heading into the ninth.
“I didn’t barrel it up completely, but I was just praying that it would go through,” Vierling said. “The mentality when you’re in a slump can be kind of frustrating, and I was just trying to put a ball hard in play and I was lucky enough to get a hit.”
With a save situation in play, Nile Ball came into the inning looking for his fifth save of the year. He walked Duvall with two outs in the inning and Harris dropped what would have been the game winning out on a dive in right field, but Ball got a ground out from Kaiser to give the Tigers their first series win over Vanderbilt.
Next up: Missouri will go for the sweep in game three against Vanderbilt. First pitch is set for 2 p.m with Michael Plassmeyer on the mound.