Missouri baseball drops both games of Saturday doubleheader against Florida

The Tigers’ losing streak reached five games after two incomplete efforts against the Gators.

Missouri baseball’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of now No. 15 Florida can be summarized in a long debate between Missouri coach Steve Bieser and the SEC umpiring crew. Bieser and the four umpires subjected the Florida Ballpark crowd to 35 minutes worth of pointing at a sheet of paper, walking back and forth between a tunnel and scrolling through iPhones for answers as to whether or not junior right-hander Jacob Kush was eligible to play.

In a patience-testing, half-hour long chat, the weekend’s true nature revealed itself: a lot of confusion and Missouri falling just short of what it wanted.

After inclement weather rolled through Gainesville, Florida, on Friday afternoon and delayed the series opener by nearly three hours, both teams agreed to rearrange start times for Saturday and Sunday to avoid a similar scenario.

The schedule changes continued into Saturday morning when the teams announced a Saturday doubleheader just four hours before the day’s action commenced.

The Tigers displayed some of that confusion in the first game of the doubleheader, which they dropped 8-6 despite holding a five-run advantage in the second inning.

Unlike Friday’s series opener, where Florida jumped out to a six-run lead through the first third of the ball game, Missouri controlled the game early on Saturday. Junior right-hander Tommy Mace entered with a 3.00 ERA and Missouri’s bats hit him hard. The Tigers drove in four runs with two outs. Junior center fielder Josh Holt Jr. recorded his first at-bat, hit and RBI of 2021, Mace balked in a run and senior second baseman Mark Vierling launched a two-run opposite field blast.

But a five-run cushion could not sustain the lead for sophomore righty Spencer Miles and the Tigers’ relief staff. While he didn’t strike anyone out, Missouri’s starter induced weak contact on grounders and fly balls that barely breached the edge of the diamond to hold the four-run lead.

Once his starter worked himself into a bases-loaded, no-out jam, Bieser turned the ball over graduate student Lukas Veinbergs.

Veinbergs had multiple opportunities to work himself out of trouble with the lead intact, but plunked freshman right fielder Sterlin Thompson and gave up the go-ahead two-RBI single to freshman second baseman Josh Rivera.

Missouri knotted the game at six runs apiece in the sixth inning on a double-play by graduate student right fielder Andrew Keefer. But Veinbergs gave the lead right back to the Gators on an inning rife with wild pitches before senior designated hitter Kirby McMullen hit a sacrifice fly to give Florida a lead that it held through the second leg of the doubleheader.

It’s hard to hypothesize what would’ve happened if there wasn’t a technicality with Kush’s appearance. His impromptu replacement, graduate student Spencer Juergens, allowed an insurance run for the Gators to seal the Game 1 victory.

The second game played out differently than the one before it, but that still wasn’t enough for Missouri to salvage a win in Gainesville in a 6-4 loss.

Instead of explosive offense keeping the game until the late innings, Missouri’s pitching staff held back the Florida floodgates so the offense could get things going. Freshman right-hander Zach Hise’s only slip-up came in the second inning when he allowed two Gators to cross the plate on a wild pitch and an RBI single to freshman third baseman Colby Halter.

Aside from the second inning, Hise had a better final line than Miles while facing the exact same lineup. The freshman made it through five innings while just allowing two runs. Hise also worked himself out of jams with two men on base.

The floodgates finally broke down in the seventh inning when junior lefty Trae Robertson allowed three runs and junior righty Drew Garrett allowed another run to score in the following inning. There was little the Tigers’ offense could do to complete the comeback.

With their backs against the wall, the Tigers made the game more interesting, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make up the deficit.

Sophomore first baseman Torin Montgomery blasted a solo home run in the eighth to breathe some life into the Tigers. Missouri added two unearned runs in the ninth inning on a groundout from senior right fielder Clayton Peterson and an RBI single from sophomore center fielder Ty Wilmsmeyer.

With Wilmsmeyer on, Vierling singled the opposite way to bring up junior shortstop Joshua Day representing the go-ahead run.

But just as the prior 17 2/3 innings foreshadowed, the Tigers didn’t have enough to come up with the big play when it mattered most. Day grounded out to short to send Missouri packing from Gainesville.

Missouri heads to Springfield, Missouri, to take on Missouri State on Tuesday to stop the five-game losing streak.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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