Missouri baseball begins SEC play with 10-2 loss to Kentucky

The Tigers couldn’t overcome the seven runs that the Wildcats put on the board in the opening two frames.

Following its first series win against Illinois State last weekend, Missouri baseball opened SEC play in Louisville, KY.

Missouri couldn’t overcome Kentucky’s opening two innings and the Tigers dropped the first game of the three-game series, 10-2.

Sophomore pitcher Spencer Miles started on the mound for the Tigers, allowing in his last start against Illinois State just two hits in a seven-inning appearance against the Redbirds. He matched his career-high strikeouts and went a career-long seven innings last Friday. A week later, the sophomore received a destructive greeting, giving up three runs in the first inning and then four more in the second.

On Friday, Miles’ pitches were just not hitting their spots. His breaking balls didn’t break when they needed to and fell into the heart of the zone for the Wildcats. Kentucky hitters took advantage and shot the pitches over the center of the plate into the outfield.

The Wildcats played small-ball to tack on runs and scored three runs on three hits in the opening frame.

The Tigers’ slow start to the game continued into the second inning, where Kentucky added extra bases via a steal and sacrifice bunt to put runners in scoring position.

Thanks to the Wildcats’ strong offensive start, sophomore Cole Stupp took the mound with a three-run lead and it never looked like he was going to lose it. The ace entered Friday’s game with a 1.62 ERA. Stupp struck out 10 Tigers and gave up just one unearned run in a seven-inning appearance.

The Tigers had just a couple of chances throughout the game. Stupp controlled the Tigers with runners on, striking out senior outfielder Jackson Lancaster with runners on the corners to escape the fourth inning. Stupp allowed just two walks and five hits to a Missouri offense that ranks 21st in the country in walks.

Stupp shut down Missouri’s most effective offensive strategy — the ability to put themselves on base via walks — leaving Missouri hopeless until Stupp accumulated over 100 pitches in the eighth inning.

The Missouri pitching staff kept the Tigers in the game following the first two innings, as it did not allow another run until the eighth inning.

Junior pitcher Trae Robertson pitched three-and-a-third scoreless innings for the Tigers until he left the game with the bases loaded. He then pitched three straight walks to load the bases until he was relieved by senior pitcher Cameron Pferrer, who gave up all three inherited runners.

In his short appearance, Robertson gave Missouri’s pitching staff the consistency it lacked in its previous 10 losses.

Missouri coach Steve Bieser emphasized how important it was for the Tigers to establish their pitching rotation and find its strengths prior to SEC play. After the first game, it’s clear that it’s still a work in progress. "We have to continue to stress our two-strike [hitting],” Bieser said. “From here, all we can do is go out and win tomorrow’s game and then we try to win that third game of the series." Missouri needs to establish its offense before its SEC home opener against No. 2 Vanderbilt next weekend. The Tigers will try to even the series on Saturday at 1 pm CT.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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