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Series Recap: Tigers go 1-2 in Columbia East

After winning their first SEC series, the Tigers were put to the test against No. 11 South Carolina

Twitter: @MizzouBaseball

In almost a complete reversal of last week’s series victory for the Tigers, Mizzou took the first game of the series on Friday and looked absolutely outclassed in games 2 and 3. What went wrong for the Tigers?

Game Recaps

Friday night was a big night for Tiger pitching. Seth Halvorsen started the game and went 4 IP and gave up 2 ER to keep the Tigers in it, but once he handed the ball to Lukas Veinbergs, the Gamecocks were helpless.

Veinbergs pitched 5 innings and gave up just 2 hits, and as he stifled the South Carolina bats, the Mizzou bats responded in a big way. In the 5th inning, Freshman DH Garret Rice cleared the bases on a 3-RBI 2B to left-center. That would’ve been enough run support with the way Veinbergs was dialed in, but a little insurance always helps.

Behind a Brandt Belk 2B, a throwing error, and a fielder’s choice, the Tigers scored 4 more runs to make it 7-2 and secured the Friday night victory.

For a good part of Saturday’s game, the Tigers looked like they had carried over the momentum from Friday. Spencer Miles was throwing a shutout through 4 innings, and the Tigers scored first on a wild pitch in the 4th to take a 1-0 lead. However, once the 5th inning started the wheels began to fall off.

A 3-run HR in the 5th gave the Gamecocks the lead, and then a 6-run 6th inning for South Carolina all but put the game away. The Gamecocks scored twice more, and the score finished 11-1.

With a chance to still win the series on Sunday, the Tigers got off to the best start possible when Mark Vierling hit a HR on the very first pitch of the game. However, that was probably the lone Tiger lead of the game.

The Gamecocks responded with 2 runs of their own in the bottom of the first and again in the second. A Josh Day HR in the 4th that came absolutely screaming off the bat cut the lead back to 4-2, but that was as close as the Tigers would get.

South Carolina’s high powered offense kicked into gear, and RBI singles from Garret Rice and Brandt Belk weren’t enough to keep Mizzou in it as they lost 13-4.

Is it time to reassess the weekend rotation?

Mizzou hasn’t found an answer of who to hand the ball to on their weekend staff all year. Miles and Halvorsen have been up and down, and Zach Hise has shown flashes but his inexperience as just a freshman is still evident. The Tigers best pitcher this season hasn’t even been a weekend starter, but instead been midweek starter/swiss-army reliever Lukas Veinbergs. So how do the Tigers address this problem?

I think you can one of two ways with this situation. You can say damn it Veinbergs is going to get a start because he’s the only consistent arm on this staff and try and build from there, or you can experiment with openers.

I don’t think Steve Bieser will go with option 1 because of how much success Veinbergs is having in his current role, and I think he’s with the mindset “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. While I understand this logic, especially when Veinbergs is throwing 5 inning relief outings which are basically shifted starts, but I think the Tigers don’t get to throw Veinbergs enough because of how often they find themselves behind the 8-ball for a start. If Veinbergs can give you solid innings to start the game, it could energize the bullpen because all pitchers will tell you they feel something different pitching in a close game as opposed to a 6-run game.

However, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Veinbergs won’t be finding himself in the weekend rotation and will remain in his current role. Therefore, I think the Tigers next best option is using an opener, specifically Ian Lohse. Aside from Veinbergs, Lohse has been the most consistent arm for Mizzou all year. If Lohse can come in and throw 3-4 innings of 1 run ball for a weekend start before you go to the bullpen, I think that gives the Tigers a better chance to win. It means you’d only need 3-4 innings from either Hise or Miles out of the bullpen, and by not starting, some pressure could be taken off those guys’ shoulders and they may perform better.

Seth Halvorsen still deserves to start on Fridays, and I think that the Tigers should stick with Miles or Hise for Game 2, but having Lohse open game 3 and hand the ball to one of Miles or Hise might give the Tigers their best chance to start getting better pitching on weekends. Lohse may be just a freshman, but the kid can pitch. So why not give it a shot? What’s there to lose?

Standout Performer of the Weekend

Lukas Veinbergs - He’s been discussed a lot already in this recap, but you really can’t say enough about what Veinbergs has done all year and especially on Friday night. 5 IP, 2 H, 2 BBs, and 5 Ks is a fantastic line against a lineup where you have to navigate guys like Wes Clarke. He’s been the Tigers best pitcher all year, and he proved it again on Friday night.

Check Rock M on later this week for more baseball content as the Tigers face MO State then go to Gainesville for a series against Florida.