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Missouri earns commanding 9-1 win against Tennessee in SEC opener

 Rory Whetstone   in Baseball

The Missouri Tigers (14-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) handed the Tennessee Volunteers (14-4, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) their fourth loss of the season with a commanding 9-1 win on Friday afternoon in Columbia, Mo., at Taylor Stadium. 

The Tigers started the game off strong after silencing the Volunteers in the first inning and taking care of business in the bottom of the inning. 

Missouri put its first runs on the board after consecutive doubles from Austin LovichDalton Bargo, and Trevor Austin. Adding a triple to the mix, Hank Zeisler hit the ball right down the first base line and brought the lead to 3-0. Juju Stevens brought Zeisler across the plate after his groundout to short. Missouri finished the first inning up 4-0.

After the first inning, Missouri remained in control of the game.

Lovich and Bargo continued to stay hot from the plate. Starting things off in the third, Lovich sent his second double of the night to left field. Austin then grabbed his second RBI with a single to right, bringing the Tigers' lead to 5-0.

The Volunteers managed to grab their only run of the game in the sixth inning. With the wind blowing out to right, Christian Moore roped a no-doubter over the right field wall. It was then 5-1

However, Missouri was quick to answer with another run. After Austin led off the inning with his second double of the game, Dylan Leach grabbed his first hit with an RBI single to right. The Tigers ended the inning up 6-1.

Missouri tacked on some insurance runs in the eighth that sealed the deal for the win. The Tigers loaded the bases with an Austin HBP, a single from Zeisler, and a Cam Chick HBP. Leach stepped up to the plate ready to do more damage on the day. He grabbed his second RBI with a sacrifice fly to right, resulting in Tennessee pulling their pitcher. Ty Wilmsmeyer then laid down a sacrifice bunt, which scored two after Bryce Jenkins committed a throwing error to first base. These final two runs pushed the Tigers up 9-1, the final score of the day. 

Maltrud ended Tennessee’s day retiring the side. He struck out Denton to end the game and finished with five Ks. 

Missouri Defense

The Tigers were excellent on the mound with Chandler Murphy covering six innings and only allowing one run. Both he and Maltrud had five strikeouts, reaching a double-digit mark for the team. Missouri’s pitching staff has logged at least 10 strikeouts in 11 of its 17 games. 

With his win today, Murphy moved to a season record of 3-1 and 3-0 at home. Entering today, he had a 0.69 ERA in home starts. In his three home games, he has struck out 18, walked four, and only allowed 10 hits. He threw a season-high 102 pitches in his start and never faded, even when throwing such a high number of pitches. 

The duo also silenced sophomore Burke who leads the Vols with a .394 batting average. He didn’t reach base and struck out once. 

Missouri backed up their pitcher with some amazing defensive plays. When Tennessee threatened in the second, the Tigers turned a quick 4-3-2 double play where first baseman Zeisler had to jump to reach the ball and applied the tag off the bag. 

Another beautiful play came from shortstop Bargo when the Tigers completed their second double play of the day. Making a diving grab, he tossed the ball out of his glove while still lying on the ground. Austin then fired the ball to first to nail the runner. 

Head coach Steve Beiser talked about his team’s performance. 

“I’d like to see them play each game like that," he said. "Defensively, we were spot on. Pitching was spot on."

Vols Suffer on Mound

Unlike Missouri, Tennessee didn’t see much success from the mound. 

Chase Dollander completed 5.2 innings, giving up six runs, one walk, and striking out four. He seemed rattled in the first as he gave up multiple extra-base hits to the Tigers. Unfortunately, a rough first inning has been consistent for Dollander this season. 

Andrew Lindsay entered in relief and pitched 1.2 innings. He gave up another three runs and only allowed one hit. 

The only Tennessee pitcher to have a scoreless appearance was Bryce Jenkins. 

In the Future

Missouri will look to close out the series on a high note with games on Saturday and Sunday. 

Beiser offered his thoughts on his message for the team heading into the next two games.

“We just need to take it one game at a time," he said. "Our goal is to win every game. Today’s game doesn’t mean anything for game number two."

The Tigers look to secure their first SEC opening weekend series win since 2017.