By SAM MILES
COLUMBIA — If Kyle Gibson is to be believed, Missouri’s pitching staff is having trouble executing a key strategy this season.
“One thing we really talk about is to try not to have strikeouts,” the sophomore right-hander said. “We like to have the guys put the ball in play as early as possible.”
During Sunday’s doubleheader at Taylor Stadium, the Tigers again struggled to achieve that aim.
In a performance unlikely to lead to extra wind sprints, nine Missouri pitchers combined to strike out 23 batters en route to a pair of victories against the Toledo Rockets.
Unable to heed his own advice, Gibson was the most prolific offender, striking out a career-high 11 batters in eight innings during the Tigers’ 3-1 win in the first game.
Gibson said he wasn’t at his best because of an early inablity to locate his fastball.
“I’m lucky that my slider was working today, and my change-up,” he said. “The first couple innings, that’s really all I had.”
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said that while Gibson will need to pitch better with Big 12 Conference play coming up, he’s tough to beat even when struggling.
“He’s got good enough stuff, and he’s around the strike zone enough, to give himself a chance every time he goes out there,” Jamieson said.
Though he earned the win, improving his record to 4-0, Gibson allowed the Rockets to score their first run of the series following consecutive shutouts, and he said he caught plenty of flack from his teammates for it.
“Coming off the field, I felt terrible,” Gibson said, before putting the situation in context. “You know, that’s part of the game, we’re not always going to throw shutouts.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, however, freshman Brad Buehler and six of his teammates seemed on their way to doing just that. Making the first start of his Missouri career, Buehler threw three scoreless innings and earned his first win before giving way to a bullpen that hadn’t seen much action over the weekend. The Rockets didn’t score a run until the seventh inning of Missouri’s 11-6 victory.
“They all did well,” junior third baseman Kyle Mach said of the pitchers that threw in the second game. “They learn from the best.”
Instead of revelling in their series sweep, the Tigers are already thinking ahead.
“We still have two games mid-week before conference gets here,” Jamieson said of the matchups with South Dakota State on Tuesday and Wednesday at Taylor Stadium. “But I’m sure that all sights are right now on Baylor.”
Mach shared Jamieson’s sentiments about the conference opener on Friday.
“It’s going to be different next week,” he said. “It’s going to be real baseball next week.”
With their performance over the weekend, the Tigers seem to be confident and ready for the challenge.
Now if only they could avoid all those strikeouts.