COLUMBIA — Having the bases loaded with nobody out is not an unusual situation for pitcher Tyler Clark.
Clark, a junior, has pitched out of the bullpen since he was a freshman for the Missouri baseball team. He has been put in this position several times, trying to prevent the pitcher who preceded him from seeing his ERA explode.
Sometimes Clark has come through and other times he has failed.
In the second inning of the Tigers’ 11-6 win against Missouri State on Tuesday at Taylor Stadium, Clark again found himself in this unenviable position. But this time, Clark was the starter and it was his own ERA that he had to save. And this time, Clark came through with a pop-up and two strikeouts to keep the game scoreless.
Clark said knowing his ERA was at stake did make it a little more intense.
“Honestly, you should have the same approach each time out,” Clark said. “But you know those are your runs and you get a little selfish. You don’t want to let those score, so there’s a little extra motivation there.”
Clark is one of the hardest throwers on the team and relies heavily on his ability to strike batters out. When he comes out of the bullpen, getting a strikeout is sometimes crucial.
However, now that Clark is getting the chance to start a few games, it is important for him to realize that he can’t try to blow the ball past everyone. Clark is still adjusting, but said he knows what he has to do to be successful as a starter. It’s just a matter of doing it.
“I haven’t been a starter regularly since high school,” Clark said. “I am used to being a starter, though. It’s not unnatural for me. When I come in to start a game, I’m ready to start the game. Coming out of the bullpen, I can see how hard I can throw.”
Coach Tim Jamieson said he thought Clark was trying to get the outs himself.
“He was just trying too hard,” Jamieson said. “Our philosophy is to force contact early in the at-bat. I thought he was trying to miss bats as opposed to make contacts.”
Catcher Ryan Ampleman said Clark has a fiery personality when he is on the mound, though he is calm and mild-mannered the rest of the time. He takes the ball and gets too excited. This might have contributed to Clark loading the bases. He walked the first two batters he faced, and then gave up a base hit.
Ampleman said cooling the fire is simple.
“He slowed down,” Ampleman said. “I went out and talked to him. He can throw the ball threw a brick wall, but the most important thing is to hit spots. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw if you’re not throwing strikes.”
Had Clark given up runs that inning, the complexion of the ballgame for Missouri (24-19) completely changes. Missouri State got on top 3-0 a couple of innings later, and a much bigger lead might have killed any chance for the Tigers’ offense to get going.
“It was huge,” Ampleman said. “It was huge for our team. And of course secondly, it was huge for him and his confidence. He came in and had a good mindset and got in a real good groove.”