Middle-innings mania: Veinbergs and two-out offense provide firepower for Missouri baseball’s triumph over No. 11 South Carolina

Grad student right-hander Lukas Veinbergs picked up his first win of the season in 5 and ⅔ innings of shutout ball, while the offense compiled six two-out runs.

After it came close to scoring several times early Friday night, Missouri baseball broke through in the clutch by driving in six runs with two outs over in the fifth and sixth innings. The club picked up its first ranked win of 2021 against No. 11 South Carolina in a 7-2 effort.

With freshman designated hitter Garrett Rice’s first college RBIs and redshirt senior left fielder Brandt Belk’s consistency at the plate, the Tigers overcame a disappointing offensive start to pull away from the Gamecocks in the middle innings.

The fifth inning appeared to be another missed opportunity for Missouri’s offense when Rice stepped to the plate. Belk, sophomore first baseman Torin Montgomery and grad student right fielder Andrew Keefer loaded the bases against South Carolina redshirt junior right-hander Thomas Farr, but the Tigers had been in this position a couple of times before.

Farr, who entered Friday with a 2.97 earned run average, walked five batters and gave Missouri opportunities to get on the board. But when the Tigers threatened to score, the redshirt junior buckled down and kept the scoreboard clean.

Belk and senior shortstop Mark Vierling maneuvered into scoring position in the first inning before the Gamecocks’ ace set Keefer and redshirt sophomore third baseman Luke Mann down to end the frame.

In the next frame, Rice sat 90 feet away at third base with one out and Farr stranded him there with a strikeout and groundout.

Farr allotted five baserunners via base on balls but struck out nine hitters, all of which came at perfect times to frustrate the Tigers’ offense.

Missouri redshirt sophomore right-hander Seth Halvorsen wasn’t as lucky as his counterpart in working out of tough predicaments in the early going. In the bottom of the second inning, Halvorsen allowed an RBI single to junior center fielder Brady Allen, which allowed freshman third baseman Jack Mahoney to scamper home on a wild pitch.

Halvorsen ended his night with a similar stat line to Farr with plenty of walks and strikeouts — six of the former and seven of the latter to be exact. After the second inning, he had better luck working out of messy frames after allowing the leadoff man to reach in the third and fourth innings.

Missouri’s starter held the door open for Rice to come through and drive in his first collegiate runs. A bases-clearing double into the left-centerfield of Founders Park to give Missouri a 3-2 lead.

The next half inning presented another high-leverage situation for Halvorsen after he walked the leadoff man to bring up the nation’s leading home run hitter, junior designated hitter Wes Clarke. Missouri coach Steve Bieser pulled Halvorsen in favor of grad student right-hander Lukas Veinbergs, which turned out to be a smart managerial move.

Veinbergs struck out Clarke then induced an inning-ending double play to maintain the lead. Bieser rode his experienced arm all the way to the finish line as Veinbergs threw 5 and 2/3 innings and allowed just four baserunners while striking out five.

Veinbergs received aid from his offense with more two-out magic in the sixth inning. Belk took a pitch the opposite way for his third double of the night to score a run. He came around to score along with Montgomery when Mahoney’s throw that could’ve ended the inning sailed wide left of first.

Belk tacked another run on just for good measure when Vierling crossed the plate on his double-play ball as Veinbergs comfortably cruised to his first win of the season.

The Tigers are on their longest winning streak this season after winning their last three games. Bieser’s squad will take the series tomorrow afternoon at 11 a.m. CDT on SEC Network+.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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