Missouri baseball steals game from Kentucky

Reid Glenn

As Greg Maddaux and Tom Glavine would say, chicks dig the long ball … and so did the Tigers on Sunday, where they won the final game of their series in Kentucky on Sunday, overpowering the Wildcats 5-4.

The win took time to develop, but Missouri belted a home run in both seventh and eighth innings to complete the comeback.

The Tigers’ pitchers deserve credit, too, holding Kentucky batters to six hits and keeping the Wildcats scoreless after the fifth inning.

Missouri used a myriad of hurlers when starter Zach Hise’s day was over. Andrew Vail, Konnor Ash, Jacob Kush and Lukas Veinbergs all saw action.

None of the relievers gave up any runs, something the staff has struggled with so far in 2021. Ash earned his first win of the season, and Veinbergs snagged the save.

Vail had three of the Tigers’ six strikeouts in 1⅓ innings. The junior lefty came in to finish off the fifth inning after Hise gave up two runs to the Wildcats.

Most of Missouri’s runs came via the long ball, with Tre Morris breaking the 3-0 score with a leadoff home run in the seventh.

Cameron Swanger came up the hero in the next inning. The junior slapped a shot deep over the left-center fence, scoring three to put Missouri up 4-3.

The Tigers did a good job of cutting back on strikeouts, getting fanned six times compared to 15 times Friday and seven times Saturday.

Putting the ball in play generated nine hits for the team, two of which came from right fielder Andrew Keefer. Missouri batters hit safely in six innings, giving teammates the opportunity to move them over.

The Tigers have struggled with consistently getting baserunners, but that was no problem Sunday. In the three innings where they recorded no hits, Missouri hitters found a way on base by virtue of a walk or hit by pitch.

Tigers coach Steve Bieser was happy for the improvement.

“It was a really outstanding game and I thought from pitch one we pretty much dominated the game,” he said in a news release.

Josh Day had a third of the Tigers’ hits, including two doubles, one of which scored a run in the ninth to add to Missouri’s lead.

The Tigers were happy for the insurance, because after Kush walked the first batter in the bottom of the ninth, they gave up two fly outs and a single to left field, and the two-run lead didn’t seem so big.

Missouri needn’t have sweat because Veinbergs came in and made short work of the next batter, who grounded into the final out.

“It was great to bounce back to close out this series and pick up the win,” Beiser said.

Now 8-12, Missouri isn’t expected to see much more success in the challenging SEC season, and those fears are only enlarged when the team only manages one win in a series against one of the league’s bottom-feeders.

The win is a good palate cleanser for a Missouri team that got blown out Friday and fell in a heartbreaking late-inning comeback Saturday, but the Tigers still have a long road ahead of them, with the next stop in a week’s time in Columbia against a Vanderbilt team that looks nearly unbeatable.