Missouri tops Lamar ahead of SEC opener
Rory Whetstone • 3/15/2023 in Baseball
Completing the non-conference part of their 12-game homestand, the Missouri Tigers (13-3, Southeastern Conference) seized their 13th win of the season after defeating Lamar University (13-4, Southland Conference) by a score of 10-8 at Taylor Stadium in Columbia, Mo., on Wednesday afternoon.
The first runs of the game were scored in classic Hank Zeisler fashion. The first baseman lit up the scoreboard for the Tigers in the first inning with a three-run bomb to center field.
However, Zeisler wasn’t done.
After a routine flyout in the third, he showed his power again in the fifth, this time by hitting a home run over the right field wall. He now leads Missouri with 23 RBIs and eight home runs this season.
Following in Zeisler’s footsteps, Juju Stevens stepped up to the plate in the second and kept the momentum going by hitting another home run just over the center field wall to start off the inning. It was his second of the season.
The Cardinals responded with a home run of their own by Luke Bermudez to start things off in the fourth. Pitcher Logan Lunceford didn’t let the run affect him and closed the inning strong, not allowing another hit.
Increasing his career-best hit streak to 12 games, Luke Mann grabbed two RBIs with a single to right field in the bottom of the fourth. He has now driven 11 runs past the plate during his current streak. Giving up two walks and two singles, Kole Tauzin was pulled after one inning in relief.
Lamar didn’t quit and battled back in the seventh. At the start of the inning, Daniel Wissler entered the game in relief for the Tigers. He would give up two singles before the Cardinals tacked on their first run from a sacrifice fly by Ben MacNaughton.
Then, it got dangerous.
Luke Bumpus hit his second home run of the season as he hit a deep home run over the left field wall, bringing the score to 7-4. After a walk to Bermudez, Wissler had to face the hot hands of Ryan Snell and his team-leading .825 slugging percentage. Bermudez then took Wissler deep with a two-run homer that landed right in Missouri’s bullpen to make it 7-6. Wissler eventually battled back, closing out the inning without allowing another run.
Zeisler responded in the only way he knew: He hit another home run. Leading off the seventh, he hit a solo oppo taco home run. It was his third of the night. There would be three more home runs before the game would end, two from Missouri and one from Lamar.
Surpassing a little difficulty, Tony Nuebeck would close the game and end the slugfest at a score of 10-8.
What a Slugfest
With the wind blowing out towards left-center, the game was bound to be a slugfest. And oh boy, did it deliver.
Taylor Stadium saw 10 balls fly out of the yard. Six were in Missouri’s favor while the other four went to Lamar. The Tigers' six home runs were the most the offense produced since hitting seven jacks against Texas in 2008.
Half of the Tigers' long balls came from Zeisler, who sprayed the map with homers to left, right, and center field. The last player to have a three-homer game was Trey Harris back in April 2017.
When asked about Zeisler's importance to the team, head coach Steve Beiser had a lot to say.
“He’s just a super-stud," Beiser said." The way he approaches every game, whether he has three home runs, draws three walks, or he’s 0-4 he’s the same guy every day. People see that and they follow his lead.”
The other Missouri homers were from Stevens, Mann, Colon, and Bargo.
Justin Colon has developed greatly in his role with the Tigers. The shortstop rounds out the batting order and entered the game with a .341 batting average and .911 OPS. He notched his second collegiate home run in the win against Lamar, his second home run in a week.
Dalton Bargo’s four-bagger proved incredibly important to the Tigers as it kept them ahead even when the Cardinals added two runs in the ninth. What makes his homer even more impressive is that he battled back from an 0-2 count on two outs to give Missouri insurance. Lamar added to the homer tally in the fourth, seventh, and ninth innings. The seventh is when the Cardinals saw two blasts leave the yard and came within a run of the Tigers.
Snell added his second bomb of the night in the ninth as his team tried to make a late rally.
While most of Missouri’s success in their win came from their offense, the pitching also saw some highlights. Lamar couldn't quite say the same. Ian Lohse started the game and pitched a scoreless two innings. Lunceford followed his performance with a solid four-inning performance, only allowing one run. The two also combined for six strikeouts.
When Wissler entered the game, things got a little tense as he surrendered five runs, but soon Tony Neubeck came in and was awarded the save. Over Neubeck’s two innings, he gave up two runs but struck out three.
The Cardinals had great difficulty on the mound, rotating through seven different pitchers. Half of which didn’t even complete a whole inning. They were throwing strikes, but Missouri was constantly capitalizing.
In the Future
Missouri closed out the non-conference part of their homestand with a record of 8-1. They will close their homestand against second-ranked Tennessee this upcoming weekend. It will be their first conference matchup of the season.
Bieser was also asked how Missouri will try to keep up its momentum as they head into a difficult weekend.
“Tennessee’s starting rotation and pitching is phenomenal, and they’re playing really well right now too,” he said. “The fact that we got out of here with a win is definitely going to help with momentum and now we just need to lock down and play really clean baseball."