COLUMBIA — On Wednesday afternoon, the Missouri baseball team finally looked like a team worthy of the No. 20 ranking it received in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll.
The Tigers beat Illinois-Chicago 12-8 at Taylor Stadium, pounding out 13 hits and improving to 12-12 on the year. The Tigers got hits from all but two of their starters. This was coming off a tough 6-4 loss to the Flames on Tuesday.
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said he was much more happy with his team’s effort on Wednesday.
“I told them it was a horrible performance,” Jamieson said about Tuesday’s game. “We beat ourselves last night. I let them have it. They responded pretty well today.”
The long ball was important for the Tigers. Left fielder Greg Folgia, first baseman Steve Gray and center fielder Ryan Lollis all hit home runs for the Tigers. Folgia’s two-run shot in bottom of the first put the Tigers up 2-1, and they did not trail for the rest of the game.
It remained 2-1 until the fourth inning. Gray led off with his home run. Then, the Tigers started to find holes and the whole team started getting hits.
Jamieson said some credit can go to the home runs, but he also said that good hits usually come when you aren’t thinking about them.
“We started taking better swings,” Jamieson said. “Sometimes when you hit home runs, it can be a really good thing. Sometimes you can hit them and it’s not. We had a lot of guys in the lineup trying to hit the ball off that building out there until later in the game, and they started taking better swings.”
Folgia said avoiding strikeouts and making the Flames work was a key in the Tigers' hitting.
“We kept putting the ball in play, putting more pressure on their defense, and they started making a couple mistakes,” Folgia said. “Balls were falling, the wind was blowing and things started going our way.”
Senior utility player Austin Holt had a great game in what he called a rare start at second base. Holt did not make an out, going one-for-one with three walks and two RBIs. Jamieson has been trying different players at second base and Holt is hopeful that his strong performance will give him more opportunities.
“It was a great day,” Holt said. “I was excited to be in the lineup. I finally got an opportunity and just tried to make the best of it.”
Although the Tigers played well, their pitching did give up runs in the later half of the game. The Flames scored seven runs in the final three innings. The Tigers used their staff pitching approach again and needed 11 pitchers to finish the game. Jamiseon said he is aware the strategy will not be successful every time, but he was happy with the effort.
Pitcher Tyler Clark got the win for the Tigers with a scoreless second inning, improving his record to 2-0 and lowering his ERA to 1.42.
Along with cranking his third home run of the season and leading the team with four RBIs, Folgia came out of left field to pitch the final inning for the Tigers. Folgia said the Tigers are turning things around and this game is a sign of things to come.
“Everybody felt real comfortable today,” Folgia said. “I think yesterday told us that we can’t really play like that and still win games. We came out today fighting.”