By Zach Garcia
Missouri starting pitcher Jace James pitches to Illinois designated hitter Michael Hurwitz in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. James pitched five innings and gave up four runs on seven hits in the game, which Illinois won 6-2.
Busch Stadium is a bit different than Taylor Stadium.
Busch, which is the home of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, has a capacity of 46,861. The largest crowd Taylor Stadium, Missouri’s home field, has ever held was just north of 4,000 – a mark that was nearly matched in the Tigers’ SEC debut against South Carolina on March 15.
The contrast in the much larger confines of Tuesday’s game against Illinois in St. Louis provided a unique and meaningful backdrop, especially for the nine players on Missouri’s roster that are natives of the St. Louis area.
Among the group is Missouri outfielder Case Munson, a native of St. Charles, Mo., who made his Busch Stadium debut as a Tiger Tuesday.
“Just being from St. Louis, it’s an awesome time,” said Munson. The sophomore went 0-3 with a walk in the leadoff spot on Tuesday. “[It’s] just being like one of the big leaguers out here.”
Despite the excitement regarding the game’s location, Missouri (9-16) could not break out of its recent slump, falling to Illinois (18-7) by a 6-2 score. The defeat ended a six-game winning streak against the Illini, which dated back to 1988, and marked the first time the Tigers have ever lost in the new Busch Stadium – which opened in 2006. Missouri had been 3-0 over the past three years against Illinois in the building and also beat Saint Louis University at Busch in 2009. Attendance for Tuesday’s game was 625.
Among the bright spots for Missouri was Jake Ivory, who hit a double and scored the Tigers’ only run in the fourth inning. Generally a catcher by trade, Ivory was inserted in left field for Tuesday’s game in order to keep both his and starting catcher Dylan Kelly’s hot bats in the lineup.
Ivory, also from St. Charles, had played twice at Busch (once in high school for Francis Howell, and in Missouri’s win last year against Illinois) prior to Tuesday’s game, but he said the feelings of reverence return every time he takes the field at the iconic St. Louis ballpark.
“Every time I walk in here, you remember when you’re little – you walk in and you’re just in awe at looking at a big league stadium,” said Ivory. “Then, when you get to play in one, it’s definitely a cool thing.”
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson was hoping that the special atmosphere would translate into a refreshed approach for his team’s embattled offense and shaky defense. Instead, the Tigers continued to sputter in both areas of issue – knocking in just one run on seven hits and committing five errors on Tuesday.
“Playing in this environment could maybe provide the spark we were looking for,” Jamieson said. “If anything, we came away with less than what we walked into the ballpark with.”
The loss dropped Missouri to 2-7 over their last nine games and ushers in the team’s fourth road series of the season. The Tigers, who are 1-8 in true road games in 2013, will travel to Athens, Ga., to take on the Georgia Bulldogs (11-19, 2-7 SEC) in a three-game weekend set. The series begins with a 7pm first pitch on Friday.
Illinois shortstop Trevor Lindauer doubles in the top of the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game at Busch Stadium. Attendance for the neutral-site game was 625.
Missouri pitching coach Matt Hobbs walks to the mound to relieve starting pitcher Jace James during the sixth inning of Tuesday’s game. James was tagged with his first loss of the season. Photo by Zach Garcia.
Missouri pitcher Jace James pitches to Illinois designated hitter Michael Hurwitz in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. James pitched five innings and gave up four runs on seven hits in the game.
Missouri shortstop Dillon Everett (at second base) prepares to field a throw from catcher Dylan Kelly (55) during the top of the seventh inning on Tuesday. The throw beat Illinois base runner Michael Hurwitz (10), who was attempting to steal the base.