COLUMBIA — Starting 15 minutes late didn’t slow down the Missouri baseball team in its home opener.
The Tigers defeated Western Illinois 10-3 on Wednesday night at Taylor Stadium to end their four-game losing streak.
After a slight rain delay, the Tigers (5-5) took the field. Missouri starting pitcher Ryan Clubb looked confident and ready to make a statement in his first start of the year.
Western Illinois’ leadoff hitter Andrew Hagins hit a scorching line drive to center to start the game. Missouri freshman center fielder Blake Brown looked to have the ball played right, but it bounced off Brown’s glove and onto the dirt giving the freshman an error on the first play of his first home game.
Brown was noticeably frustrated as Hagins reached second on the play and later scored on catcher Jason Summers’ double to give the Leathernecks an early 1-0 lead.
Once the top of the first was over, Brown and The Tigers knew they had to strike back early.
“I hate making defensive errors,” Brown said. “It’s one of my pet peeves because it’s something I’ve been trying to work hard on and improve since I’ve been here, so defensive errors really kill me inside. When I came up to that first at-bat, I was like we need to get an inning started here.”
Brown did just that. After Missouri outfielder Russell LaFleur was robbed on a diving play by shortstop Cole Waddell, Brown came up and drilled a base hit up the middle.
Then Aaron Senne got a hit. And then Andreas Plackis got a hit. Before the team knew it, the Tigers had seven-straight hits and a 6-1 lead, which chased Western Illinois starter Austin Brough off the mound after just 1/3 of an inning.
Catcher Ryan Ampleman delivered the crushing blow with a two-RBI double. Ampleman said it was crucial for the team’s confidence to bounce back early.
“It was huge for us,” Ampleman said. “Especially in the first inning. They go up one in the top of the first, and a great answer back. We didn’t put our heads down.”
The Tigers had a four-run fourth inning to make the score 10-1. Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said his team must never go easy on opponents.
“You can’t let up,” Jamieson said. “You’ve got to play all 27 outs. You’ve got to keep your focus. Guys that are on the bench need to be ready because the chance is that they’re going to get to play. They’ve got to learn how to play when they’re ahead and when they’re behind.”
Jamieson is still not sure who he wants in his rotation. The Tigers used six pitchers before the game was called in the top of the eighth because of thunderstorms. Kelly Fick threw three perfect innings in relief to earn his first win of the year.
After the decisive victory and a two-hit day in his home debut, the first inning error still haunted Brown.
“I’m still a little bit upset about it,” Brown said.
The Tigers open a three-game series with Xavier at 6 p.m., Friday at Taylor Stadium.