Mizzou baseball dominant in doubleheader home opener

Text by Zach Garcia
Photos by John Guminski

The Tigers prepare to take the field for game 2 of their doubleheader against EMU.

The Tigers prepare to take the field for game 2 of their doubleheader against EMU.

The Missouri baseball team finally had a chance to play on its home field, which was evidently just the remedy the team needed to break out of its early season slump.

Missouri (2-6) swept a two-game doubleheader Wednesday, taking two seven-inning games from Eastern Michigan (3-9) and notching its first wins of the 2013 season in the process. The Tigers rolled behind strong starting pitching in a 1-0 Game 1 win and finally put together a complete offensive performance in a 7-1 Game 2 victory.

“We’ve been on the verge for a week or two, we just needed to all finally push over that edge,” catcher Dylan Kelly said. “We’re gonna have to keep rolling in the next weeks, but I think we’re coming up pretty well.”

Kelly was once again the leader on offense for the Tigers, who’s bases-clearing single in the fourth inning of Game 2 broke that game open and paced Missouri to the large win. Kelly has swung a hot bat all season, but on Wednesday he didn’t have to lead the charge alone. Shortstop Josh Lester batted in a run in both games, second baseman Kendall Keeton had a combined four hits on the day and outfielder Scott Sommerfeld finally broke through at the plate, notching his first two hits on the season.

The hottest Tigers on the day were those pitching the ball, however. Both Jace James in Game 1 and Keaton Steele in Game 2 made the most of their spot starts, refusing to allow an EMU run to score and giving up just three hits in their combined 11 innings pitched.

Game 1: Missouri 1, Eastern Michigan 0

Offense was at a premium in Game 1 of Missouri’s doubleheader against Eastern Michigan, but the home team did just enough at the plate to scratch up its first win of 2013.

The most important of Missouri’s three hits came off the bat of Scott Sommerfeld in the fifth inning, when the senior outfielder (playing as the disgnated hitter in Game 1) drove a line drive just shy of the warning track between EMU’s outfielders in deep right center. The leadoff double was Sommerfeld’s first hit of the season, a possible sign that the struggling veteran could be coming through a deep slump.

“Standing on second, I just had to breathe for a split-second there,” Sommerfeld said. “Baseball’s a crazy game, and it comes in bunches and you just gotta stick with it.”

Starting first baseman Michael McGraw would follow with a sacrifice bunt that moved Sommerfeld over to third base, setting the table for shortstop Josh Lester. Lester then battled to drive a fly ball to straightaway center field, deep enough to score Sommerfeld. The run was the true freshman’s first batted in of his college career, and was all the Tigers would need on offense for the 1-0 win.

Jace James turned in a dominant effort on the other side of the ball, as the starting pitcher tossed 82 pitches through six shutout innings. James allowed just one hit while walking three and striking out a career-high five batters in a fastball-heavy performance.

Relief pitcher Jace James attempts to pick off the Eastern Michigan runner.

Relief pitcher Jace James attempts to pick off the Eastern Michigan runner.

 “My off-speed pitches weren’t really working for me today, and usually I have that to fall back on so it was really my fastball,” James said. “I was locating that really well today, so I was getting them to roll over and hit weak fly balls.”

Eastern Michigan starting pitcher Brian Valente was also strong in opposition of James. Valente turned in six innings, striking out two and only allowing Sommerfeld’s run on 80 pitches.

Despite the shutout effort, Missouri needed the services of two relief pitchers in the top of the seventh to secure the win. Alec Rash came on to start the final inning for the Tigers and got the first two outs but walked three EMU batters in the process, prompting Missouri coach Tim Jamieson to insert Breckin Williams with a runner in scoring position at second base. Williams threw just four pitches before getting EMU second baseman Nick Rotola to ground out, securing himself a save and Missouri’s first win.

Game 2: Missouri 7, Eastern Michigan 1

 Missouri finished the afternoon with its best offensive showing of the young season, and it once again started with Sommerfeld. Missouri’s left fielder lined a single into right field in the bottom of the first- scoring the leadoff man Kendall Keeton and pacing Missouri to a lead it wouldn’t relinquish behind Keaton Steele’s strong start.

Steele would go on to pitch five innings, giving up two EMU hits and issuing two walks but allowing no runs. Steele, a

Pitcher Keaton Steele spins and fires to get the Eastern Michigan runner at first.

Pitcher Keaton Steele spins and fires to get the Eastern Michigan runner at first.

transfer from Iowa Western Community College, also secured his first win in a Missouri uniform.

Missouri pushed across another run in the third on a fielder’s choice fly ball hit by center fielder Logan Pearson, but put the game out of reach with a big rally in the fourth inning. Despite two quick outs in that frame, Missouri strung together five consecutive plate appearances in which batters were able to reach base. The rally was highlighted by Kelly’s base hit that scored three, which gave Missouri a 6-0 advantage.

Josh Lester batted in first baseman Michael McGraw in the fifth to make it 7-0 for Missouri, and the pitching staff came within one inning of a complete doubleheader shutout. Eastern Michigan’s lone run came on a force out groundball hit by Austin Williams with one out in the seventh inning, yielded by Missouri relief pitcher Griffin Goodrich. Goodrich recovered to close out the game for the Tigers, winning Game 2 by a score of 7-1.

Missouri continues its home stand with a three-game set against San Francisco (5-7) this weekend, beginning with a game that’s schedule for 6 p.m. from Taylor Stadium at Simmons Field on Friday. San Francisco swept visiting Missouri in a three-game series last season.

Supervising editing for this story was done by Jared Jeffries

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