Offense, pitching struggle in opening series loss for Missouri baseball

Despite small signs of potential, the Tigers looked very rusty in their first weekend set of the season.

A lot of lows, very few highs and a ton of confusion told the story of opening weekend for Missouri.

Coming into the season with optimism and new faces, it seemed as though Missouri was not on host and series winner Grand Canyon’s level.

The Tigers lost three of four games to the Lopes in blowout fashion. Grand Canyon looked like a team that had been playing outdoors consistently through the winter, showing little to no signs of rust.

Right from the get-go, it became clear that the Tigers hadn’t seen live pitching outdoors in natural light for a long time. Lopes starter Zach Barnes tallied 10 strikeouts through only six innings of work, silencing Missouri’s dugout in game one.

Friday night starter Spencer Miles was nearly as successful. The Rock Bridge graduate’s final stat line was seven runs over 5 1/3 innings, four of those runs coming in the sixth inning.

The Lopes totaled eight earned runs in the sixth frame, extending their lead to 11-0. Sophomore Ben Pederson, who came into relief for Miles, faced nine batters. He only got two of them out.

Bieser went to junior Andrew Vail in game two, making his first ever NCAA start, and it didn’t go quite as planned.

Once again the Lopes’ offense fired on all cylinders, as Vail didn’t even last three innings, giving up three runs. More importantly, Vail gave up four walks.

Walks were a theme for Tiger pitchers this weekend. Missouri walked 27 total batters in the series, almost seven per game. The erraticness clearly showed rust on the arms of the Missouri squad.

Not only did Missouri lack control, but Grand Canyon worked hard for almost every at-bat. The Lopes wore down every Tiger pitcher.

Two-way redshirt sophomore Seth Halvorsen, graduate student Spencer Juergens and freshman flamethrower Zach Hise righted the ship for a game three win.

However, it completely sunk during game four. Missouri put in their worst showing of the four games, getting dominated 10-3 by a Lopes squad that must’ve eaten its Wheaties Sunday morning.

The lack of control on the mound continued, with Missouri pitchers hitting four Grand Canyon batters.

A positive for the Tigers: transfer infielder Josh Day. Day recorded a single to right in his very first at-bat as a Tiger, scoring Halvorsen and giving his team their first run of the season.

Additionally, the offensive explosion that Missouri fans were hoping for came in the form of nine runs scored by a new-look lineup that featured a number of fresh faces in game three.

Debuts for Alex Peterson, CJ Cepicky and Torin Montgomery sparked a 12-hit barrage on Grand Canyon. Along with a three-run home run off the bat of third baseman Luke Mann in the sixth, this gave Missouri plenty of run support.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they lacked consistency at bat all weekend. At times the sticks were hot, and Missouri ran wild on the bases. However, for the most part, they struggled to piece multiple base runners together.

On Sunday, the Tigers couldn’t get anything going offensively. Their only three runs came off of one bat, a Brandt Belk bomb in the fifth and then a sac fly in the ninth.

When they did create chances for themselves, the Tigers were unable to capitalize.

In particular, game two had two huge missed chances. In the top of the fifth, with the bases juiced, Missouri found itself down 6-1, but with Mark Vierling coming to the plate, a huge opportunity arose.

The senior failed to capitalize. He struck out, killing the momentum of a team that needed a big hit for most of the weekend.

The very next inning, the Tigers shortened the lead to 6-3 thanks to a Cameron Swanger home run. Freshman Trevor Austin stepped up with a man on third, but another strikeout ended the rally.

Missouri ended up losing the game 8-4. They had a total of 10 men left on base.

"We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go based on our performance this week,” Bieser said.

The Tigers will come back home to Columbia with many questions and concerns, but also a chance to make amends this coming weekend. A four-game set hosting the Omaha Mavericks at Taylor Stadium should be an opportunity for the squad to regroup.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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