Missouri baseball wins series behind bats of Montgomery, Wilmsmeyer

Reid Glenn

It seemed like it was going to be another one of those games for Missouri baseball.

Texas A&M jumped out to an early lead with a run in both the first and second innings, and Missouri starter Zach Hise was struggling.

But the Tigers tied the game in the third, Hise found his groove and Missouri was off to the races. Missouri outscored Texas A&M by four in the last six innings to win the game 7-3 and seal the series win.

“It’s crazy,” Missouri first baseman Torin Montgomery said after the game. “It is nuts because we’ve had a tough go, but we’ve just started bringing that energy. Once we started doing that, we watched it turn around and see that good things happen. I’m excited to get in (the locker room) and start yelling with the guys.”

Head coach Steve Bieser said that the difference in the past two games was that the Tigers came together after the Kansas loss and Texas A&M blowout to start the series.

“I saw really a bonding of a team,” Bieser said. “When you hit rock bottom, some of the selfishness goes away with everybody wanting to get their own. They were saying, ‘This is embarrassing for us, and our school. We need to come together and compete for the school and less for ourselves.’”

The sixth inning was the catalyst for Missouri on Saturday. Headlined by an opposite-field three-run home run off the bat of Montgomery, the Tigers plated five runs in the frame to retake the lead and put the game out of the Aggies’ reach.

Things started off when Cameron Swanger reached on a fielding error by A&M shortstop Kalae Harrison. Garrett Rice backed up Swanger with a single in the next at-bat and Tre Morris hit them both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.

By then Aggies coach Rob Childress had seen enough of his starter and brought in sidewinder Alex Magers in hopes he would end the Tigers’ rally. Magers hit pinch-hitter Dalton McNamara with the first pitch he threw, loading the bases and giving a hot-hitting Ty Wilmsmeyer the opportunity to single through the right side to score two and put Missouri up 4-3.

Texas A&M caught McNamara trying to steal home, but intentionally walked Mark Vierling to set up Montgomery’s game-sealing homer. With the bomb, Montgomery tied Luke Mann as Missouri’s top home-run hitter with four.

“With two strikes, I wanted to shorten up,” Montgomery said. “I knew maybe that fastball was coming and just wanted to try and get a barrel on it, and there you go.”

The transfer from Boise State had a day at the plate, going 2 for 3 with three RBI, no strikeouts and two walks, bringing his season average from .231 to .250.

Wilmsmeyer had a similar outing. He was the only other Tiger with multiple hits, going 2 for 3 with three RBI, no strikeouts and a walk.

On the surface, Hise’s outing doesn’t look very good — three runs, all earned, on five hits with just three strikeouts. Barring a couple of mistakes, his day sounds much better. Two of those hits and runs came off the bat of freshman Ryan Targac, who hit his first career home runs off of Hise, the second of which bounced off the metal of Dan Devine Pavilion some 420 feet away from the plate beyond the right-center wall.

Out of the bullpen, Jacob Kush and Konnor Ash were both lights out. In relief of Hise, Kush went a career-long three innings with a career-high five strikeouts. Ash closed out the final two innings, giving up zero runs. Each reliever only allowed two hits.

With no midweek game and a Friday-Sunday series next weekend Missouri has an inopportune extra-long break midway through the season. To try and keep the momentum from the series win going, Bieser said the Tigers likely will take the day off Sunday and have an intersquad scrimmage Tuesday to simulate their usual schedule.

“We want to get right back to work,” Montgomery said. “We don’t want to take any days off because this momentum is not something we want to slow down.”