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Missouri drops pitchers’ duel to set up win-or-go-home matchup with Tennessee

The Tigers and Vols will fight for the last spot in the SEC Tournament today at 2 pm CT.

While the average baseball game takes about three hours to complete, Thursday’s matchup between the Tigers and the Volunteers — a 3-2 Mizzou win in 12 innings — took nearly four and a half.

It was only natural, then, that the teams balanced those times out Friday with a game that was through seven innings in just an hour and 45 minutes.

In a matchup that featured outstanding pitching performances from both squads’ starters, Tennessee (29-26, 12-17 SEC) took two of the few bad pitches from Michael Plassmeyer over the wall in left field and grabbed a 2-1 win over Missouri (33-21, 11-18 SEC), tying the series at one game apiece.

“I felt pretty good. Keeping them off balance was the biggest thing,” Plassmeyer said. “Their guy was pretty good; he was crafty. (We) just (need to) get good rest and come back ready to go. Tomorrow’s the big game.”

The teams’ bats were dormant to start the game, and the guys on the mound were doing everything they could to keep it that way. Both Plassmeyer and Sean Hunley combined to allow just four baserunners through three innings.

After three innings of being no-hit, though, Missouri finally got the bats going in the fourth.

Trey Harris launched a ball off the wall in right-center, and neither Tennessee’s Brodie Leftridge or Justin Ammons were able to play it cleanly. Harris motored all the way to third, and Alex Samples hit a grounder past the mound that brought in Harris and gave the Tigers the lead.

The Vols didn’t take long to answer back, though. Nico Mascia led off the fifth for Tennessee and took a 1-1 pitch from Plassmeyer into Missouri’s bullpen in left to tie the game.

Things went back to “normal” after the top of the fifth, and the game remained tied at 1-1 through the seventh inning.

In the top of the eighth, however, the Vols again got to Plassmeyer.

With one out in the inning, Brandon Chinea took the first pitch of the at-bat back into the Tigers’ bullpen to give Tennessee the lead. Two batters later, Plassmeyer plunked Ammons, prompting Missouri’s first mound visit of the night. He then balked on a 2-2 pitch to Andre Lipcius, moving Ammons into scoring position, but got Lipcius swinging on the next pitch. But the home run would prove to be the difference.

In the eighth, Chris Cornelius found a hole between short and third for a lead off single, but he ended up stranded at third. Harris blooped one into center to lead off the ninth, but Samples grounded into a double play and Brett Bond struck out to give Tennesse the win.

“Just a poor offensive performance tonight,” Missouri coach Steve Bieser said. “(Plassmeyer) was phenomenal. You usually don’t get beat by solo home runs. It was more of a lack of offense than him giving up a couple solo shots there.”

Today’s rubber match looms. The Tigers still have one more opportunity to take the series and, with it, a spot in the SEC tournament next week in Hoover, Ala. Mizzou’s NCAA tournament hopes could hinge on a win today, as well. The Tigers’ RPI has sunk to 40th, and their résumé might require another win or two.

As a senior hoping to keep his season alive, Harris will be ready to leave it all on the field come game time.

“At least we have a chance. If we would’ve lost yesterday and lost today, then it would be a different story. As long as you’ve got an out on the board, you’ve got a chance to do something,” Harris said.

“I plan on scoring one more than the other team. As I tell my mom, I never lost a game where I scored more than the other person, so that’s just gonna be the goal tomorrow.”

First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday at Taylor Stadium.