Mizzou baseball powers up to even series with Arkansas – STLtoday.com

COLUMBIA, MO. • After what he’d later call Missouri’s worst-played game of the season, baseball coach Steve Bieser woke up Saturday expecting a better effort from his 18th-ranked Tigers against Arkansas.

On Friday, the No. 24 Razorbacks wrecked MU’s 20-game winning streak with a 9-2 win. In their first loss since the Feb. 17 season opener, the Tigers rarely reflected the clutch-hitting, efficient-pitching team that cruised through five weeks unscathed.

That team reappeared Saturday at Taylor Stadium.

With a sixth-inning power surge and two strong outings on the mound, Mizzou reset its winning streak at one with a 7-2 victory to even the three-game series. The Tigers (21-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) broke open a 1-1 stalemate with three home runs in the sixth, more than enough offense to make pitcher T.J. Sikkema (5-0) a winner out of the bullpen.

“I thought this was the best game we’ve played all season long,” Bieser said.

Mizzou’s first home SEC win under Bieser started with a typical start from left-hander Michael Plassmeyer, who scattered six hits and a walk and struck out five. The Razorbacks hit into eight groundouts in five innings. The Tigers improved to 6-0 in games started by the De Smet High graduate.

Plassmeyer’s only undoing was a towering home run by Granite City’s Chad Spanberger in the third. Fortunately for the Tigers, Spanberger’s solo shot came one pitch after Nelson Mompierre threw out Jake Arledge trying to steal second base. Shortstop Robbie Glendinning’s tag appeared late — Hogs coach Dave Van Horn came out of the dugout to argue —  but the call saved Mizzou a run. Plassmeyer got out of the inning with two runners stranded.

“You always know what you’re going to get out of” Plassmeyer, Glendinning said. “He’s going to throw strikes, lots of pitches for strikes. He’ll get through the lineup a couple times, which is what we need from him. He’s just doing his job.”

Mizzou struck first on a double steal in the first, scoring on Connor Brumfield’s delayed burst home after Arkansas (19-5, 4-1) tried to catch Trey Harris stealing second. Instead, both runners were safe for a 1-0 lead.

The game turned for good on Mizzou’s third time through the lineup against Arkansas starter Trevor Stephan (4-1). Under a steady rain in the sixth, Glendinning slugged a hanging curveball for a two-run blast onto the football practice fields behind the left-field fence — his team-leading fourth home run. Brian Sharp followed with a solo shot down the right-field line for MU’s first back-to-back homers since April 18, 2015. Three spots down the order, against lefty reliever Kacey Murphy, Mompierre crushed MU’s third homer of the inning, skimming right fielder Arledge’s glove at the fence.

Bieser credited his lineup’s early patience against Stephan for his sixth-inning meltdown.

“When we got him to that point he was tired,” Bieser said. “Conditions weren’t the best. He made some mistakes and we made him pay for every mistake that he made. He was getting to that point where I thought we were wearing on him. It’s hard to stay engaged when we’re doing what we’re suppose to be doing offensively.”

“They’ve got a really good offensive team,” Van Horn said. “They just did a great job of putting together at-bats. They fouled a lot of pitches off. It was a tough inning. Rain’s coming down. I didn’t feel our starter let it bother him. He just left a couple pitches up, and they took advantage of it.”

By then, Bieser had turned the game over to his shutdown freshman reliever. With a two-out double in the eighth, Arkansas became the first team to score a run against Sikkema in eight appearances, but he was otherwise back to his dominant form in four innings of work. In the sixth, Harris’ face-first diving catch into the right-field wall was one of several highlights for a Mizzou defense that struggled the night before. Sharp at first base and Matt Berler at second also made impressive plays in the field to back their pitchers.

“We just wanted to prove not to anyone else but ourselves that we can play good baseball against good competition,” Brumfield said. “We want to go out there and show that (Friday) was not our best and we can hang with anybody. That’s what we did.”

MU softball team wins • The Missouri softball team won its first SEC game, beating No. 7 Texas A&M 5-1 in College Station, Texas, behind a complete-game victory by Cheyenne Baxter. The Tigers (18-12, 1-3 SEC) got two RBIs from Kirsten Mack and a solo home run by Rylee Pierce against the Aggies (27-3, 6-2). Baxter (6-2) allowed five hits over seven innings with six strikeouts.

SLU baseball team falls • St. Bonaventure scored in the top of the 12th inning after St. Louis University left the potential winning run at third base in the 11th, beating the Billikens 6-5 to even their Atlantic 10-opening series. Freshman Josh Garner pitched seven innings of scoreless relief to allow SLU (16-5) to rally from a 5-1 deficit and tie the game in the ninth. (Stu Durando)