By Zach Garcia
An ongoing power outage at the plate has the Missouri baseball team with an 0-6 record for the first time in the program’s history.
Last weekend’s road series at Memphis (4-3) brought more of the same for the struggling Tigers, who lost all three games for the second straight series. Missouri managed to scratch across just five runs in the series, while allowing 19 total Memphis runs to score.
Impotent offense and giving up big innings late in games have quickly become the theme of the young season for the Tigers. Missouri has already blown leads in the final three innings of games on three separate occasions, a large factor in the squad’s six game slump.
Despite the wide gap, the Tigers were in position for a win Saturday night, leading 3-1 in the seventh inning, but shaky relief pitching led to another blown lead and loss.
The Tigers will get a chance to break the ice, so to speak, on their home turf in their next series, when they host Northwestern (4-2) beginning Friday. Weather could very well determine if opening day arrives in Columbia on time, however, with more heavy snow and chilly temperatures forecast for the week.
Game Capsules from Missouri’s series at Memphis
Friday: Memphis 6, Missouri 0
Memphis starting pitcher Sam Moll ruled the night, frustrating Missouri hitters for seven innings while giving up just one hit (a Dane Opel triple) and striking out five. Missouri’s No. 1 starter Rob Zastryzny took his second loss in as many starts, enduring a tough outing in which he relinquished five earned runs on 10 hits through 5 1/3 innings pitched. Kendall Keeton had Missouri’s only other hit in the game, a single in the eighth inning. Memphis designated hitter Tucker Tubbs led the way on offense for the host squad, though it wouldn’t need much behind Moll’s strong outing. Tubbs hit a two-run homerun off of Zastryzny in the first inning and finished with three runs batted in.
Saturday: Memphis 5, Missouri 3
Missouri’s Brett Graves looked strong from the mound for the second straight week and carried a no-hitter through four innings, but eventually tired in a decisive seventh inning. Memphis scored three times in the seventh frame, turning what was a 3-1 Missouri lead into a 4-3 advantage for Memphis. Graves had exited with the lead intact despite leaving the bases loaded with one out, but Memphis pushed across all three of those runners on Missouri reliever Jace James and also added an insurance run off of reliever Jake Walsh in the eighth. Dylan Kelly was one of few bright spots for Missouri on offense, tallying two hits in four at bats.
Sunday: Memphis 8, Missouri 2
Eric Anderson made his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May, pitching two innings, allowing two hits, one run and issuing two walks. He also worked himself out of some trouble. Alec Rash continued his strong freshman season, coming in to pitch four dominant relief innings during which Memphis managed just two base runners while striking out three times. Missouri eventually pulled even in the seventh inning, thanks to a big two-out double by Jake Ivory. With the score tied at 1, Rash was pulled in the seventh after a fluke leadoff single that Missouri shortstop Shane Segovia was unable to handle. It was the beginning of the end for Missouri, as Memphis then opened the floodgates to score seven times in the seventh and eighth innings.
• A couple of familiar faces returned to the Missouri lineup during the weekend, as starting shortstop Shane Segovia and pitcher Eric Anderson each made their 2013 debuts against Memphis. Segovia started all three games, hitting two singles and scoring a run, while Anderson pitched the first two innings of Sunday’s game.
• Only four players are currently hitting over .250 in Missouri’s struggling offense. Dane Opel (.278) had a triple in Saturday’s game and has also drawn two walks, while freshman Kendall Keeton has made the most of his early playing time in an injury-riddled infield with a .286 batting average (including two doubles) through six starts. The lifeblood of the offense, however, has come from behind the plate. Catcher Dylan Kelly has enjoyed a hot start to the season with the bat, hitting .412 through six games and collecting five hits in the Memphis series alone.
• Missouri used all four of its catchers in some form during the three-game Memphis series. Dylan Kelly started behind the plate on both Friday and Saturday, then served as the designated hitter on Sunday. Jake Ivory got the Sunday start, and also relieved Kelly on Friday. Reserves Patrick Quintanilla and Justin Byrd each made plate appearances in the form of pinch hitters in the ninth inning on Sunday, with Quintanilla taking a walk and Byrd striking out looking.
Missouri is scheduled to play its first home game this Friday at 6 p.m., hosting the Northwestern Wildcats of the Big Ten Conference. The three-game series kicks off a 14-game home stand at Taylor Stadium for the Tigers, running through much of March.