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Missouri sweeps Tennessee to open SEC play

 Rory Whetstone   in Baseball

The Missouri Tigers (16-3, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) completed the sweep of the Tennessee Volunteers (15-6, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) by taking both games of a doubleheader on Sunday in Columbia, Mo., at Taylor Stadium.

Missouri had lucky number seven with them in the series, winning the first game 7-4 and the second game 7-1. 

With their three losses, it was Tennessee’s first sweep since being swept by Arkansas in April 2019. 

Game 1

Just like the first game of the series, the Tigers came out roaring in the first inning. 

Luke Mann led off with a double and Jackson Lovich followed him with a single to drive Mann across the plate. Dalton Bargo then stepped up to the plate and increased the lead to 3-0 as he cracked the ball over the right field wall. It was his second home run of the season. 

Missouri added two more runs in the bottom of the third. Mann started things off once again by drawing a walk. Lovich continued to stay hot from the plate as he roped a double to right center. After Bargo was retired, it was Trevor Austin’s turn to contribute to the score. He hit a bloop single over the second baseman’s head to bring the score to 4-0. Chase Burns then balked while Hank Zeisler was at the plate and the Tigers grabbed another run. 

Tennessee skipper Tony Vitello had some different thoughts about the call and was ejected from the game. 

The Volunteers managed to get their first run in the fourth inning. Hunter Ensley reached first base after the umpire ruled catcher’s interference. He eventually stole second base. Zach Franklin struck out the next two batters he faced but was unable to retire Maui Ahuna. Ahuna hit an RBI single to center field and brought Tennessee within four. 

However, their rally would stop there as Ahuna was caught stealing second base. 

Missouri responded immediately, on the first pitch of the inning to be exact, as Dylan Leach hit his first home run of the season. After four, it was 6-1 in the Tigers' favor. 

The Tigers added another run in the fifth as Austin hit his second RBI single of the game.

The Volunteers scored their second run off of a home run from Griffin Merritt in the top of the sixth. Once again, they would only get one run as they had great difficulty putting the ball in play when they had runners on base. Tennessee left seven runners on the bags in total. 

The seventh got a little more complicated than Missouri wanted. After retiring the first two batters it looked like it was going to be a clean inning until center fielder Ty Wilmsmeyer bobbled the ball on a routine fly out and Blake Burke made it to third base. Tennessee finally took advantage of a runner in scoring position when Zane Denton was at the plate. On a 2-1 count, he hit a long home run to right field. However, this would be all the Vols could capitalize on as Franklin retired the next batter with a groundout. 

Even though Burns surrendered six runs to the Tigers, he still had a decent performance on the mound. Over the course of five innings, he only allowed one walk and struck out 12. It was his second-highest number of strikeouts in a game, having 13 against Morehead State last week. 

Also strong on the mound was Franklin for Missouri. Entering in relief at the start of the third, he had great control over five innings as he only had one run credited to him, struck out six, and walked one. He moved to a team-leading four wins and 35 strikeouts. 

Additionally, he remains the SEC’s active leader in career wins (20) and strikeouts (249). 

Game 2

Even though they didn’t put a number up on the scoreboard in the first inning like their previous games, Missouri still managed to pile on runs throughout the game. 

Starting things off in the third, the Tigers loaded the bags with the help of two walks and a throwing error from Drew Beam. Austin stayed hot from the plate, hitting an infield single to put the Tigers ahead. It was his third RBI of the day. 

Tennessee’s defense made yet another fatal error when Morris reached on an errant throw from the second baseman and Bargo scored. It put Missouri ahead 2-0. Cam Chick then pitched in and nailed a double against the wall to add two more insurance runs.

Entering today’s games, Justin Colon has been the most successful Tiger at home, hitting .400 at Taylor Stadium. However, Tennessee was able to shut the shortstop down at the plate throughout most of the series. He would get his first hit in the fourth inning of the second game of the doubleheader, but it would be helpful as it drove another run home to make it 5-0. 

The Volunteers then answered in the fifth inning. They got their first base runner and scored their only run of the game.

 Troesser had been throwing a perfect game up until this point and would finish with no hits allowed. After striking out one more batter, Troesser’s night came to an end and Tony Nuebeck entered in relief. Neubeck gave up an RBI single to Ensley, the first batter he faced, but would stay composed and end the inning for Missouri. 

Like they had all weekend, the Tigers responded immediately. After the first two batters were retired, Tre Morris sparked the inning with a double to left field. Chick then seized his third RBI with a single and brought the score to 6-1. 

Missouri captured their final run of the game in the bottom of the sixth when Bargo grounded into a double play while the bases were loaded. Luckily for Tennessee, Camden Sewell escaped the jam and ended the inning allowing no more runs.

Tennessee had no answer in the seventh and it resulted in their third straight loss to Missouri.

Another note for the Tigers was that while they were hitting the ball well, their pitchers were dealing fire on the mound. 

The game’s starter, Austin Troesser threw 4.2 innings hitless innings. He was perfect through the first four. Neubeck and Maltrud finished the game for Missouri. In his second appearance of the series, Maltrud struck out three of the four batters he faced. In total, Tennessee was only able to drive six runs against the plate, which was nothing to Missouri’s 23. 

In addition to not being able to score many runs, Tennessee also suffered from lackadaisical defense. Over the course of the series, they committed six errors, half of which came in the final game. 

In the Future

On Wednesday, the Tigers will travel to Kansas City, Mo., to face the Kansas Jayhawks. After that game, they head to South Carolina for their second series in SEC play. 

Post-game, Steve Beiser constantly reiterated how proud he was of the team for their outstanding weekend and what he looks for going forward. 

“The message was ‘you did a heck of a job this weekend, celebrate, we got an off day tomorrow, and we’re going to come back Tuesday and have a good practice, then the grind starts again,’” he said. “Right now, my thoughts are how we get ready for KU.”