Missouri dominated Tennessee this weekend, and not one of the three games played at Taylor Stadium was particularly close, either.
The Tigers, picked to finish last in the SEC East, outpitched the Volunteers and their three-headed monster of weekend starters, and outhit a lineup that features numerous all-conference players. The Volunteers were picked to win the SEC East, and after one week of SEC play, the two have switched positions after Mizzou took all three games to the tune of 9-1, 7-4, and 7-1.
Now, let’s recap.
Friday featured a marquee pitching matchup that went far different than expected. Chase Dollander and Chandler Murphy went head-to-head on the Taylor Stadium mound, and it was Murphy who stole the show.
Dollander, a projected top-5 pick in next year’s draft, surrendered 6 ER and nine hits in 5.2 innings of work. Four of those ER came in the top of the first inning after Dalton Bargo, Trevor Austin, Hank Zeisler, and Juju Stevens all drove in runs for Missouri. Bargo added another in the third.
2B Christian Moore got one back for the Volunteers on a HR in the sixth, but that was the lone blemish for Missouri pitching Friday. Chandler Murphy was nothing short of spectacular, as the Arizona transfer had a line of 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 ER, and 5 Ks.
When Murphy exited the game, he made way for Rorik Maltrud, who gave the Tigers maybe the best three innings we have seen from a Missouri pitcher this year. He faced the minimum, allowed no hits, and struck out five to close the game and get his first save of the season.
Maltrud mowing them down‼️— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) March 17, 2023
For good measure, Missouri tacked on three more insurance runs thanks to a pair of RBIs from Dylan Leach and squeeze play executed by Ty Wilmsmeyer. The Tigers won 9-1.
Saturday’s game was cancelled due to snow in CoMo, and so the teams reconvened for a Sunday double-header.
In game one of the DH, Missouri once again jumped out to an early lead, scoring three in the first. Ross Lovich drove in a run, but the big blow came from (again) Bargo, who turned around a 97 mph pitch from preseason All-American Chase Burns and sent it 418ft over the RF wall.
Dalton Bargo's two-run homer puts #Mizzou on top, 3-0!#MIZ ⚾️#C2E pic.twitter.com/NNtloznQKg— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) March 19, 2023
On the mound, Ian Lohse got the start, but had to get out of jams in the top of the first and second. In the third, Steve Bieser called for closer Zach Franklin out of the pen. Franklin, who typically gives the Tigers 1-3 innings, proceeded to throw 5 innings and 98 pitches while allowing just 1 ER and striking out six. It was one of the gutsier performances I’ve seen from a reliever in a long time at any level of baseball.
While Franklin continued to shove on the mound, Missouri kept scoring runs. Trevor Austin drove in a run in the third, and not long after Ross Lovich scored on a balk that had Tony Vitello fuming. The Tennessee coach was ejected for arguing the call.
A Leach HR in the fourth, and another Austin RBI in the 5th put Missouri up 7-1. On the Tennessee side of things, Griffin Merritt made it 7-2 with a solo-HR in the 6th, and the Vols took advantage of an error by Ty Wilsmeyer in the 7th to score a pair of runs on a Zane Denton HR. But it was too little, too late for Tennessee as Missouri won 7-4.
In the finale, it would have been easy for Missouri to take its foot off the gas after already securing the series victory, but the Tigers kept on rolling.
After getting back-to-back strong pitching performances, Austin Troesser made sure that streak wouldn’t end in game 3. Troesser threw 4.2 no-hit innings with 7 Ks before handing the ball over to Tony Neubeck.
Behind Troesser, the Tigers’ bats stayed hot as they put up a four spot in the third innning highlighted by a Cam Chick 2-RBI double off the wall. In the fourth, Justin Colon drove in another off former Missouri pitcher Seth Halvorsen to stretch the lead to 5-0.
It's a four-run 3rd for #Mizzou! @CChick_13 caps the rally with a two-run 2B. #C2E ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/sbPvlXZun3— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) March 19, 2023
Tennessee scored one in the fifth, but that was all the Volunteers could muster. Missouri plated two more runs, and Rorik Maltrud shut the door for the second time this series after Tony Neubeck had to exit with an injury. The end result was a 7-1 win and a series sweep for the Tigers.
The series was arguably the biggest series victory for Steve Bieser in his time at Missouri. Perhaps the only one that compares would be when the 2021 Tigers took 2 of 3 from eventual national champions Mississippi State. No matter, this validates what the Tigers did in Arlington at the College Baseball Showdown, and you can expect Missouri to be ranked on Monday.
Player of the Weekend
There are so many names I could give this to. Trevor Austin drove in a number of runs, Chandler Murphy, Austin Troesser, and Rorik Maltrud were spectacular, but I still can’t get over Zach Franklin’s performance on Sunday. Franklin threw damn near 100 pitches out of the pen, and showed almost no signs of fading throughout the outing. He spelled a Missouri bullpen that was missing some key arms like Sam Horn and Carter Rustad, and he allowed Steve Bieser to enter the finale with a deeper bullpen. If Franklin doesn’t give the Tigers those five innings, Missouri might not win this series, let alone sweep it. Hats off to you, Zach.
HOW BOUT THEM MIZZOU TIGERS??— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast (@11point7) March 19, 2023
Zach Franklin with 5 innings with 1 ER out of the pen and Missouri takes the series from #2 Tennessee. pic.twitter.com/DCBULahyiZ