COLUMBIA — Aaron Blunt delivered his best start of the year, but the Tigers couldn’t move past a sloppy first inning in a 5-1 loss to Xavier on Sunday at Taylor Stadium.
Blunt, a junior transfer, has been in competition for a starting spot all season. He went 5 1/3 innings on Sunday and did not give up an earned run.
In the top of the first inning, he gave up two unearned runs on two Missouri errors.
Blunt relies heavily on ground balls, and he said his control was an issue in the first inning.
“Early, I had trouble finding the strike zone,” Blunt said. “When I didn’t make a good pitch, we got the outs.”
Missouri’s defense made four errors overall. To go along with below-par defense, the Tigers (7-6) had only three hits the entire game. Blunt said the defensive woes didn’t get in his head, but he wished the team’s offense had been better.
“It is disappointing,” Blunt said. “Yeah, you want runs out there, but then again, just today wasn’t our day.”
While Blunt didn’t give up a run, he did issue a balk and was responsible for one of the Tigers’ errors in the first inning. Coach Tim Jamieson said he still expects more from Blunt.
“He was better,” Jamieson said. “The two runs up on the board that he gave were not really his. But I expect more out of him then what he did. I think he’s better than what he pitched.”
Jamieson said the offense was undisciplined, and third baseman Brett Nicholas was the only Missouri hitter who was patient at the plate. He added that Nicholas and Aaron Senne have been hitting the ball well lately, but the rest of the offense needs to step it up.
“They (Nicholas and Senne) can get it done, but we’ve got to have the pieces around them,” Jamieson said. “They can’t score all the runs. They can’t drive in people if there’s nobody on base.”
Nicholas had Missouri’s only hit through the first eight innings before the Tigers started a late rally in the bottom of the ninth to plate their only run. Nicholas said the team needs to be more focused.
“We just really didn’t come prepared to the game and it showed at the plate,” Nicholas said. “Especially when you come to the ballpark with something else on your mind or not ready to play, a team that you’re supposed to beat will beat you.”
Blunt kept the Tigers in the game, but once he exited, Missouri’s bullpen struggled, giving up three runs in the seventh inning. One of those runs came on another Missouri error. Jamieson said the late rally could’ve meant something if his team hadn’t given away runs.
“The ninth inning is a little different if it’s two-to-nothing as opposed to five-to-nothing,” Jamieson said. “We’ve just got to play better on Sunday, and this ball club’s got to learn how to do that.”