After Mizzou baseball won both games of a doubleheader on Sunday versus No. 2 Tennessee Mizzou coach Steve Bieser had just one question.
“Pretty good weekend, huh,” Bieser asked.
The relishing first words out of Bieser’s mouth came as no surprise to anyone following the Tigers’ first SEC series sweep in four years.
The Tigers surmounted the Vols 7-4 and 7-1 in a pair of seven-inning games which marked the first time they had won a Southeastern Conference opening series since 2018, when they defeated Alabama two games to one, as well as the first time Tennessee had been swept since April 2019 against Arkansas.
Missouri (16-3) relied primarily on its offensive fireworks to get the job done, using early rallies to establish leads and then riding the pitching staff the rest of the way.
The sweep gives Missouri both a major victory over a conference opponent as well as a notable performance against a team widely regarded as one of the best in college baseball. Still, the message from Bieser remains focused on the mission to improve and move forward.
“We can’t continue to say we’re a good team,” Bieser said. “We have to move on and take the next steps.”
Swinging early, swinging often
Though the Tigers struggled with strikeouts, they justified their ferocious approach at the plate with incredibly effective first-pitch swings and early-game rallies that put them ahead early and for good.
“I thought it was huge how we got leads for our pitching staff and how we held those leads,” Bieser said.“I thought we were the toughest team this weekend.”
In the first inning of each game, Missouri capitalized on the Tennessee pitching staff for at least three runs as the top of their lineup strung together hit after hit.
The first five hitters of the Tigers’ lineup finished the series with a slash line of .333/.403/.972 while driving in 10 of their 23 runs in the series, though the largest contributions came in the first two games.
Trevor Austin was a constant presence in the heart of the Tigers’ lineup, helping himself to five hits in nine at-bats, driving in four runs while scoring four himself. Dalton Bargo and Ross Lovich also made significant contributions, combining for five extra-base hits and six RBIs.
In the first game, the Tigers capitalized on consecutive extra-base hits from Lovich, Bargo and Hank Zeisler that brought in four runs in the first inning. That early lead proved to be enough, as Mizzou’s pitching staff held the Vols to just one run on three hits.
In the second game, Missouri’s offense produced a three-run first on the back of Bargo’s two-run shot to centerfield and held that lead for the rest of the game.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Tigers capitalized on a series of defensive errors and singles to load the bases and score two runs before Cam Chick doubled off the right-centerfield wall to bring in two more. Though the final game of the series cooled off the Tigers’ bats, they still plated seven runs on six hits and clawed their way into a 7-1 win.
Ground ball savants
The Tigers depended upon timely pitching and defense to stifle the Tennessee offense, leaving most of Tennessee’s base runners stranded by inducing rally-killing ground balls and strikeouts.
In the first game, the Tigers’ pitching staff held the Vols to just one run on three hits and two walks, inducing six ground-ball outs as well as 10 punchouts in nine innings.
Chandler Murphy improved his record to 3-1 as he went six innings with five strikeouts, while Rorik Maltrud tossed a perfect three innings with five strikeouts to finish the win in the SEC opener. The Vols left four of their five runners on base, with their only run coming on a solo shot from infielder Christian Moore.
In the Sunday doubleheader, the pitching staff proved less effective at keeping Tennessee off the bases but even more effective at stranding runners on base. Ian Lohse and Zach Franklin combined for seven innings, combining for 10 strikeouts and seven groundouts to leave seven Tennessee runners on base. Franklin earned the victory in the series-clinching win, pushing his record to 4-0 while throwing five innings and surrendering four hits and one earned run.
“Each weekend they’ve gotten better and better,” Bieser said of the Tigers’ pitching staff. “Now they’ve got the confidence. It was just a fabulous weekend from the pitching staff.”
Missouri played a neater game on the mound in their final win of the series, as pitcher Austin Troesser (2-1) went 4.2 innings while allowing one earned run on no hits and a walk while recording seven strikeouts. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before Bieser pulled the junior at 64 pitches and with a runner on second and two outs.
Maltrud closed the final game of the series with 1.1 innings and four strikeouts.
The Vols struck out 32 times across the weekend, struggling to make contact and only doing so weakly in many of their at-bats. Tennessee scored just six runs on nine hits, stranding a total of 13 runners on base.
Source: Yahoo Sports