Missouri baseball bounces back with win against Texas A&M

Missouri freshman Trevor Austin, hits the first home run of the game, giving MU an early advantage over Texas A&M, who had won the previous night 16-2, on Friday, at Taylor Stadium in Columbia. With this win the Tigers tied their series against the Aggies.

Reid Glenn

Before the game Friday, Missouri baseball coach Steve Bieser had a talk with his team.

The Tigers were coming off their worst loss of the season, a 16-2 embarrassment Thursday against Texas A&M that pushed their losing streak to five and their record to 8-17. Bieser said the team spent about a half hour putting the season into perspective and deciding how they wanted the second half to go.

“Talk is cheap, but when they go out and they respond to the talk, it really felt good,” Bieser said. “Last night I felt like A&M really picked a fight with our guys and they had a lot of bantering from their bench. … It was good to see our guys to come back out and respond today.”

Respond they did. The Tigers picked up their second Southeastern Conference win Friday, defeating Texas A&M 8-2.

In his most recent start, against No. 1 Vanderbilt, Seth Halvorsen got lit up. In 4⅔ innings of work, he got touched for nine runs on nine hits, including two long balls. He only struck out four in the contest.

Against the Aggies, Halvorsen looked like a different ball player. The 6-foot-2 righty went as far as he’s ever gone, seven innings with 10 strikeouts – also a career high. Halvorsen only gave up two hits and four walks. Both Texas A&M runs were earned, but Halvorsen’s season ERA still lowered from 7.52 to 5.80.

Halvorsen was amped up , especially following his five looking strikeouts, even lobbing some smack talk toward the Aggie dugout.

After the game, Halvorsen said he was just blowing off some steam, and there was nothing personal about the emotion.

“I just kind of turned (the guys) loose tonight and they had a lot of fun,” Bieser said. “The guys are going at it in both ways and I think you have to put it in the right frame, you know, (the Aggies) are having fun, we’re having fun.”

Whether Halvorsen’s energy was derived from his teammates in the dugout or vice versa is hard to say, but Missouri’s dugout on the third base side had a whole different atmosphere than usual. The Tigers were animated and loud, whether on offense or defense.

“It wasn’t fun,” Bieser said. “I mean, we were losing games. It’s hard to have fun when you’re losing, but they’re having fun now. They feel good and they’ve got that feeling when you go out and play – I mean that’s our A game right there. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Halvorsen gave the bench a reason to cheer, but so did Missouri’s hitters. The Tigers piled nine hits on A&M, with every batter except pinch-hitter Luke Mann getting at least one.

Mark Vierling led the team in walks and RBI with two each , and he also provided the opening spark. He led off in the bottom of the first with a solo home run to put the Tigers up 1-0.

Two innings later, Trevor Austin did the same thing, taking a fastball deep to left-center for a leadoff bomb. Austin went 1-3 Friday, continuing to produce after Bieser injected the shortstop into the lineup Thursday following an extended stay in the backup role.

“He’s going to be a special player,” Bieser said. “He’s a competitor who really knows how to play the game. … He takes good at-bats and he kind of took the demotion to be the backup middle infielder as Josh Day started to get hot, and he did a really good job with it. He kept working hard, he stayed very positive with it and I knew it had to be frustrating.”

The Tigers (9-17, 2-6 Southeastern Conference)  continued to produce on offense, even after the Aggies (19-10, 3-5) took the lead with two runs in the third inning. Seven of Missouri’s eight runs came after Texas A&M scored, including an insurance run in the seventh and two more in the eighth.

“This was a really big win, especially after our loss (to Kansas) on Tuesday – that was a big one for us,” Austin said. “We were all really upset about that and then coming home and getting blown out yesterday was not too good, but the dugout was really exciting, and I think it was big for us.”

“We got a little bit of payback, but the real thing is going to be who wins the series tomorrow,” Bieser added. “It should be a lot of fun.”