By: Adam Duxter, KCOU Sports
The setting was different for both teams, but the rivalry remained the same. The 20-9 Mizzou baseball team is off to their hottest start in recent memory and put their record on the line as they faced off with the nationally ranked Fighting Illini of Illinois. This time it was GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Illinois providing the stage to write another chapter in the book of the Braggin’ Rights rivalry.
Missouri sent John Miles to the mound for his fifth start of the year. The senior right-hander was in search of his second win of the season, and started the game with a very aggressive approach. It was apparent that the Columbia native had skin in the game as he worked quickly up and down the Illinois lineup during the first three innings.
The Illini countered with Rob McDonnell, the senior left-hander. GCS, typically known for being a hitter’s park, was dominated by the starting pitching of McDonnell and Miles over the first three innings of the contest, with neither the Tigers nor the Illini able to gather a hit.
Things changed during the top of the fourth inning as Miles found himself in a jam. After Illinois’ Casey Fletcher broke up the no-hitter with two outs left in the top of the fourth, catcher Jason Goldstein ripped an RBI double past the Missouri defense to put the Illini on the board. Miles would eventually work himself out of the inning, but Illinois had already taken a 1-0 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, McDonnell continued to mow through Mizzou batters with ease.
The Fighting Illini would continue to build on their lead in the top of the fifth inning. After Miles retired the first two batters of the inning, Adam Walton was able to send a shot to right center to extend the inning. That proved to be deadly. The very next batter, Ryan Nagle, made Miles pay with a double. Going into the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tigers were down 2-0.
Yet, this is the Braggin’ Rights game, and the Tigers would not go down easily. The second time around the lineup, Missouri began to figure out McDonnell. The bottom of the fifth inning proved to be tough for the southpaw from Barrington, Illinois. The inning began with a single from catcher Brett Bond. Bond was able to capitalize by stealing second and taking third due to an errant throw by Goldstein. All Zach Lavy had to do was hit a single past the infield and Missouri was on the board. Lavy took second on a passed ball, and Chris Akmon made it runners on first and third after a bloop single into right field. After a ground out, Brett Peel was able to plate Lavy with a sacrifice fly. Another hit followed by a Trey Harris RBI single made it 3-2 Tigers after 5.
During the 6th inning, GCS added its own flavor to the story. Again with two outs, Jason Goldstein doubled to extend the inning. Then, Illinois David Kerian swung and lined one down the right field line. It hooked, and dipped, and barely made it over the short porch at GCS Ballpark to take a 4-3 lead.
That lead was there to stay. After the sixth inning, the bats went cold for both teams. Missouri was unable to get hits off of the final three Illinois pitchers, although the Tigers did have a chance to tie the game with a runner on third and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but were unable to cash in. Ultimately, Illinois’ Tyler Jay was able to strike out the last four Missouri batters to end the game.
The Tigers come back to Columbia this weekend to host the Florida Gators in a three-game SEC weekend showdown. First game is Friday at 6:05 p.m.