Missouri baseball loses pitcher’s duel in series finale against Vanderbilt

Solid pitching and a Tre Morris RBI single in the second inning was not enough for the Tigers to avoid a sweep against the top-ranked Commodores.

Missouri baseball played a “bend, don’t break” game for most of Saturday night against No. 1 Vanderbilt, but didn’t have the run support to get the job done as the Commodores swept the series with a 3-1 win Saturday night.

Freshman right-hander Zach Hise had a rough go of it given the caliber of Vanderbilt’s offense. He allowed at least two baserunners in three of his frames, and a baserunner made it into scoring position in all four innings.

Despite the constant trouble, Hise pitched four scoreless innings before Missouri coach Steve Bieser took him out.

Missouri junior catcher Tre Morris spoke with Hise in the dugout between innings. Hise admitted that he didn’t feel like he had his best stuff when there wasn’t a threat, but kicked it into another gear when the water started to get choppy.

“He was talking to us in the dugout like, ‘I don't really feel like I have my best stuff until runners get on second and third, and then I really just lock it in and throw,’” Morris said.

The freshman’s poise prevented the Commodores from crossing home plate. In the second and third innings, Hise found himself in trouble with runners on second and third base with one out, but he made it through both innings unscathed by turning to his slider to get strikeouts to prevent runners from advancing.

When Hise exited, Vanderbilt already left nine runners on the basepaths.

Behind him, senior right-hander Konnor Ash put together a solid fifth inning of work, stranding catcher CJ Rodriguez at third base after a one-out walk.

But the dam that the Tigers fortified between third base and home broke open just enough in the second inning for Vanderbilt to grab the lead. Junior right-fielder Isaiah Thomas scored Vanderbilt’s first run of the night on an error by Ash before junior first baseman Dominic Keegan brought home the second run of the frame on an RBI groundout to third.

When freshman southpaw Ian Lohse entered the game after Keegan’s groundout, he set down the next seven Commodores to step up to the plate before the ninth inning, when Rodriguez tacked on an insurance run with a single to plate Keegan.

On offense, Missouri’s hitters had scarce opportunities to pick up runs of their own. The Tigers grabbed an early lead in the second inning with a two-out offensive flurry from the bottom third of the order. Fifth-year right-fielder Andrew Keefer came around to score from second when Morris singled up the middle to open the scoring.

But that was all Missouri mustered the entire game. The Tigers didn’t necessarily miss a lot of opportunities to cash in on runs, but rather Missouri didn’t have opportunities to begin with.

Vanderbilt showcased its pitching depth outside of Rocker and Leiter on Saturday as sophomore right-hander Thomas Schultz went five innings. His only moment of trouble in the second inning was just a blip on the radar as he held runners in check through the next three innings.

“I thought the starter was very gettable and we just didn't come up with big hits,” Bieser said. “We had several opportunities and we never came up with the clutch hit in that situation.”

Vanderbilt sophomore righty Nick Maldonado worked himself into predicaments with runners on base, but there weren’t many threats to the Vanderbilt lead.

Keefer reached on an error by senior third baseman Jayson Gonzalez to lead off the seventh, but the Tigers grounded into consecutive fielder’s choices to quell the threat. Senior designated hitter Chad McDaniel lucked his way into a double in the eighth when two Vanderbilt infielders converged on a grounder only for it to roll past all of them into right field, but a groundout ended Missouri’s last real shot to make it a game.

The series served as a testament to Vanderbilt’s strength when it’s firing on all cylinders. Missouri had one-run leads for parts of two games, but both leads eroded quickly with Vanderbilt’s dangerous offense, while the Commodores gave the Tigers’ bats few opportunities to grab the lead from there.

“It just felt like we couldn't really get that one big hit other than the one that I had,” Morris said. “But I know that everybody's gonna keep pushing. I mean, it's baseball and stuff happens, so I know that we'll get back at it.”

Missouri has a chance to right its wrongs against former Big 12 rival Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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