COLUMBIA — It wasn't on the scorecard, but the Missouri baseball team's victory Tuesday night was a blowout in more ways than one.
Although the temperature at game time was a pleasant 64 degrees, a persistent wind blew straight into left field giving the the Tigers an early lift in a 14-4 rout of Nebraska-Omaha at Taylor Stadium.
With the Tigers leading 1-0 in the top of the first, outfielder Dane Opel hit what looked to be a high pop-up destined for the left fielder's glove. The wind had other ideas, lifting the ball over the wall and past the bullpen for Opel's third home run of the season.
"I just barreled it, and luckily it had enough backspin to carry," Opel said. "The wind was definitely blowing out."
Three batters later, Mavericks right fielder Mark Waldron camped out under catcher Ben Turner's fly ball, but lost it as a gust of wind moved the ball to his right. Instead of ending the inning, Waldron's error allowed another run to cross the plate.
In the fourth inning, the breeze lifted a Connor Mach fly ball over the head of a UNO outfielder, bouncing off the wall for a double. The hit cleared the bases and broke the game open, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
The victory was Missouri's third win in a row and allowed Tigers coach Tim Jamieson to put many of his young players in the game as the offensive starters continued to roll.
Most notably, freshman Brett Graves recorded his first start and first win as a Tiger. Graves pitched himself out of a first inning jam and went on to throw four scoreless innings.
Graves was drafted in the 26th round of last year's Major League Baseball draft by the St. Louis Cardinals but chose to sign with Missouri instead.
"It was a real honor to get drafted, but personally I feel like that's in the past now," he said. "When it comes down to it, if you didn't sign, you're in the same place as everyone else that didn't get drafted."
While Jamieson is still trying to determine which three pitchers will start in conference play, he said he thinks it will be senior Eric Anderson, sophomore Rob Zastryzny and junior Blake Holovach.
Still, he said he was impressed with Graves' effort Tuesday.
"We want competition for the weekend starters, and he's a guy that's capable of giving it to the other three guys," Jamieson said.
The Tigers will carry their three-game winning streak into their weekend series against UNC-Charlotte, which will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at Taylor Stadium.