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Tigers Win 2 of 3 Against No. 3 Mississippi State

Raise your hand if you saw this coming…

via Twitter: @MizzouBaseball

When Mizzou baseball was swept last week, most were convinced the remainder of their season would be merely a formality as they headed to Starkville this weekend to face the No. 3 team in the country, but the Tigers flipped the script this weekend.

Game Recaps

In Game 1 of the series, it looked like things could get ugly early when Mississippi State plated two early runs in the bottom of the first. However, the Tigers dug their heels in and got themselves back in the game. A 2nd inning Ty Wilmsmeyer RBI and a 2-run rally in the third that featured a gutsy double steal gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 3-2. Then in the 5th, Luke Mann tacked on an RBI single for insurance. After 5 innings and 2 ER from Jakob Kush, Steve Bieser turned to Mr. Reliable Lukas Veinbergs, but things did not go according to plan. Veinbergs issued 4 free passes in just 1.2 innings of work and surrendered 3 ER that gave Mississippi State the lead back at 5-4. It could’ve been even worse, too if Andrew Keefer didn’t rob a home run in RF. Spencer Miles cleaned up Veinbergs’ mess in the 8th and pitched a flawless 9th, but the Tiger bats were unable to muster anything, and Mizzou fell in a heartbreaker 5-4.

After the disappointment of Thursday, it would’ve been easy for the Tigers to pack it up and punt the next two games away, but they did the exact opposite.

Mark Vierling got the Tigers on the board first to a clutch 2-out 2-RBI single to RF in the 2nd inning, but Mississippi State promptly responded by capitalizing on a Torin Montgormery error that led to 3 unearned runs for Seth Halvorsen. Rowdey Jordan tacked on another one in the 4th thanks to a big double, but once again, the Tigers dug their heels in. A sac fly from Brandt Belk got them one run closer in the 5th, and a small ball rally in the 6th featured many things — a bunt single against the shift, a wild pitch, groundout RBI, and an infield single that was originally called an out on the field— that put the Tigers on top 6-5.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, that lead was short-lived because Bulldog DH Kellum Clark took Seth Halvorsen deep when he went back out for the 6th, and like that the game was tied back up at 6. In the 8th, the Bulldogs threatened to take the lead after getting two runners on against Konnor Ash, and Spencer Miles entered the game with 1 out to face Tanner Allen and dialed up exactly what the doctor ordered. An Allen groundout and a clutch strikeout of Kamren James to end the inning sat two of the best hitters in the Bulldog order down, and the Tigers went to the 9th tied.

In the 9th, the Tigers sent 3-4-5 to the plate, and the meat of the lineup delivered in the form of 3 singles, the last being an RBI infield single from SS Josh Day to give the Tigers a one-run lead. In the bottom of the inning, Spencer Miles shut the door, and Mizzou pulled off the upset of the day in college baseball.

With a chance to deliver their first series victory since the Tigers went to College Station, the Tigers came out swinging. By the third inning, they were already leading 8-0 in large part thanks to a monster grand slam from Brandt Belk. However, when you’re playing the No. 3 team in the country, nothing comes easy.

In the 4th and 5th innings, the Bulldogs put up 4-spots, and if not for two insurance runs in the top of the 5th for the Tigers, the game would’ve been tied. However, that was all she wrote for the Bulldogs. After a rough 0.2 innings and 4 ER from Lukas Veinbergs, the Tigers turned to Ben Pedersen, and he stymied the Mississippi State bats. 4.2 innings of shutout baseball were more than enough for the Tigers to secure the game and the series, but their bats kept rolling.

Two more runs in the 7th and one more in the 9th including a monster shot that left the ballpark from Luke Mann were merely icing on the cake, and the Tigers took the game in blowout fashion 16-8.

This series victory was long overdue for the Tigers. They’ve been the victims of some tough, close losses, and they finally put it all together this weekend. This is one of the biggest series victories in the history of the program. Even though it may not have meant much in the grand scheme of things, and the Tigers won’t be playing in the NCAA tournament this year, any time you go on the road and take down the No. 3 team in America, that’s something to remember. Now the only thing that remains to be seen is if they can keep the momentum rolling.

Let’s Talk SEC Tournament and KU

Right now, the Tigers trail both Auburn and Texas A&M for the final spot in the SEC Tournament this year, but the way the final weekend of SEC play is shaping up looks to be in their favor.

The Tigers control their own destiny against Auburn as they’ll be welcoming the opposing Tigers to Taylor Stadium this weekend. Meanwhile, A&M will be hosting LSU in College Station. If A&M loses their series, and the Tigers take 2 of 3 against Auburn they’ll be in because they’ll hold the tiebreaker against both the Aggies and Tigers. If Mizzou sweeps, that means they can get the final spot even if A&M wins 2 of 3 against LSU. If A&M sweeps, the Tigers will be out of the picture no matter what.

For Mizzou, the most important thing is to play the team in front of you. If you don’t take the series from Auburn, then your season is over. They can’t control what goes on in College Station, but what they can do is keep the pressure up on A&M by winning in Columbia. LSU isn’t great, but they’ve been better than A&M this year. This weekend, Mizzou fans should all be huge Tre Morgan and Dylan Crews fans as those two will be the key to LSU taking down A&M and giving the Tigers a chance to keep the season alive just one more week.

For now, the Tigers have an opportunity for a great tuneup against their arch-rivals KU on Tuesday. What better way to simulate a big weekend series than a Border War game midweek? However, Mizzou fans should proceed with caution against the Jayhawks because it’s likely that Steve Bieser will save every quality arm he has for the weekend to try and extend the season. Nevertheless, Mizzou should come out guns blazing on Tuesday as they try and avenge blowing their 7-run lead the last time these two teams met in Lawrence earlier this year.

Check this out here for the KU baseball preview from earlier in the season

Standout Performer of the Weekend

Ben Pedersen- While there were many great performances this weekend all deserving of the spotlight, the one that stands out the most is Pedersen’s. Some would say that the Tigers won the game by 8 runs, who cares about the pitching, they didn’t need it. However, Mississippi State was coming off back-to-back 4-run innings and their offense was clicking on every cylinder before Pedersen came in. If not for him shutting down the Bulldogs offense, the Tigers may not have won the series. 4.2 innings of shutout baseball against the No.3 team in the country is a performance you can’t diminish, and this kid deserves every bit of praise and then some.