Grounds crew made game possible Tuesday

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | 10:43 p.m. CDT; updated 11:34 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 10, 2009
MU freshman Jeff Emens pitches against Western Illinois at Taylor Stadium. Emens struck out two in one inning pitched.

COLUMBIA—No one thought it was possible to play baseball Tuesday night. Columbia got more than an inch of rain in the past 48 hours. The wind gusted at over 30 mph, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees from the time the game started to the final out.

But the Taylor stadium grounds crew was not deterred.

Missouri (7-8)  beat Western Illinois (0-7) 18-4 for the Tigers' third straight win before heading to Austin, Texas to begin Big 12 Conference play this weekend.

"It's good to get hitting before conference play," junior Trevor Coleman said. "We're playing better baseball."

Missouri's on-deck circle was surrounded by puddles. There was some standing water behind second base where the water on the tarp that covered the infield all night and day was dumped, and when Western Illinois catcher Cooper Stewart slid into home after a wild pitch in the fourth inning, he landed in a deep mud puddle behind the plate that left the back of his leg soaked.

When Western Illinois coach Stan Hyman went out to talk to the umpire about a pitching change, he shook his hand warmers like a pair of maracas. But overall there were no major obstacles to getting in a game.

Three interns maintain the field, and it was their job to get it ready for play tonight. MU seniors Richie Prendergast and Brian Bowe and junior Zach Lowenstein take care of Simmons Field all season. All three are plant sciences majors with an emphasis in turf grass and each has fallen in love with taking care of a baseball diamond.

The first member of the grounds crew arrived at 9 a.m. Tuesday to start preparing the mound, home plate and the infield to be ready to play tonight and put the tarp back on when it started to rain. 

"We put in 40-50 hours a week during the season," Lowenstein said. "When we're not in class, we're here."

At about 4:45 p.m., the crew pulled off the tarp and set to work with about 300 pounds of Turface, a material that absorbs moisture then slowly releases it back into the ground to create the ideal dirt for infields.

"We worked the infield and we were ready to go from there," Lowenstein said.

The crew put the finishing touches on the field chalking on the first- and third-base lines and the batters boxes before the first pitch was delivered right on time at 6:32 p.m..

The first five Missouri batters had hits and the Tigers hit around in the first inning scoring four runs. In the fourth inning, Missouri scored 10 runs and made 18 plate appearances and three Tigers scored twice. 

Nine Tigers pitchers combined to allow four runs on eight hits.

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