Missouri’s SEC skid continued this week as the Tigers dropped their third straight series. While it was a positive to finally win a game, and yes, Vandy is talented, this series was still a disappointment. With all due respect to the Commodores, I don’t think they’re as good as their record indicates, and Missouri desperately needed to win and could’ve won this series. Let’s recap how it happened.
Logan Lunceford got his first SEC start on Thursday night, and for a true freshman facing a blue blood of college baseball, I’d say he did well. The Oklahoma native went 5 innings allowing just 2 hits and 3 earned runs while striking out 8. While Lunceford’s start was quite good, for seven innings, Missouri’s offense wasn’t. Luke Mann drove in Missouri’s only two runs of the first seven innings while the rest of the offense stayed dormant.
In the eighth, Missouri’s offense finally woke up. Trailing 7-2, the Tigers rallied to make it 7-6 thanks to a Ty Wilmsmeyer 3-run HR. The Tigers finally had life, and after Austin Troesser tossed a scoreless top of the 9th, things were looking even better for a Missouri comeback.
Three-run shot by @Ty_Wilms brings #Mizzou to within a run!!#MIZ ⚾️#C2E pic.twitter.com/M6xfsys5QK— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) April 7, 2023
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Vanderbilt turned to Nick Maldonado. The superb reliever got Vandy out of trouble in the 8th after Wilmsmeyer’s homer then came back out for the ninth and promptly retired the first two hitters he faced. In stepped Dylan Leach.
The slumping catcher put together a fantastic at-bat, fouling off nasty pitch after nasty pitch, but it still felt like the nearly unhittable Maldonado was inevitable and Leach would eventually be retired. However, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Leach ripped a ball down the left field line, it hit off the wall, and all of the sudden Missouri had the tying run in scoring position. Except, they didn’t.
An overaggressive Leach rounded second and tried to stretch a double into a triple and was thrown out at third after a well-executed relay. Inning over, ballgame over, Vandy wins 7-6. It was a loss that felt quintessentially “Mizzou” to its core.
Coming off a disappointing loss, it would’ve been easy for the Tigers to throw the towel in on Friday, but they didn’t.
After Vanderbilt plated a pair of runs in the first inning, Mizzou bounced right back with another Ty Wilmsmyer homer. This time it was a 2-run shot, and the game was knotted up at two apiece.
Vanderbilt regained their two-run advantage in the third, but then Missouri starter Rorik Maltrud settled in. The righty retired the next 14 Commodores to step to the plate, and Missouri cut the lead to 4-3 thanks to a Juju Stevens double in the fifth. In the eighth Steve Bieser turned to Zach Franklin to keep his Tigers in it. Franklin tossed a pair of scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, although they weren’t smooth-sailing. The Western Carolina transfer loaded the bases both innings, but escaped the jam each time.
#Mizzou is on the board via Juju Stevens' two-out double. It's a one-run game!#MIZ ⚾️#C2E pic.twitter.com/LRUW5vj4r2— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) April 8, 2023
In the ninth, Missouri had one last shot to tie or win the game, but Maldonado was warming in the pen. Oddly enough, Tim Corbin never called on his star reliever even as Missouri loaded the bases after singles by Hank Zeisler, Leach, and Tre Morris. With one out and the bases loaded, Matt Garcia stepped up to the plate as Maldonado looked on from the Vanderbilt bullpen in right field. On the fifth pitch Garcia saw, he ripped a ball on the ground to right field to score the runners on second and secured a dramatic walk-off win.
M-I-Z! What a finish!— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) April 8, 2023
With the series tied at one, things set up perfectly for Missouri as its ace Chandler Murphy got the ball on Saturday. In the series rubber match, Murphy did everything he could to give his team a chance to win, but his offense didn’t cooperate. The Arizona transfer went 6.1 innings allowing 4 earned runs, but two of those were surrendered after he departed the game.
On the opposing side, Vanderbilt’s Devin Futrell stymied Missouri hitters for 7.1 innings allowing just 5 hits and striking out 6. It was a completely dominant performance from last week’s SEC Pitcher of the Week. When the Tigers finally got to the Commodoroes bullpen, they had even less luck. Maldonado came in to close the ninth and shut the door on Missouri to seal 5-0 Vanderbilt win and a series victory.
Player of the Week
This has to be Ty Wilmsmeyer. The CF played a huge role in the two games that Missouri was in, and hit his first two home runs of the season. While Wilmsmeyer is typically providing you with exceptional defense and speed, the emergence of his power this weekend allowed the Tigers to win one game, and have a chance in another. The Springfield-native has been exceptional for Missouri as of late.
LONG GONE!!— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) April 7, 2023
For the second night in a row, @Ty_Wilms goes deep. Two-run shot to left ties this one up!#MIZ ⚾️#C2E pic.twitter.com/EeEuJPtAkj