Missouri baseball wins ninth straight after blowing lead in ninth inning

Friday, March 16, 2012 | 10:29 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Missouri pitcher Jake Walsh entered the game in the eighth inning against High Point on Friday with a 7-6 chance to save his seventh game in as many tries.

His streak ended with a game-tying home run by High Point's Sal Pezzino on his first pitch of the ninth.

After the next batter singled, it looked as though he might unravel, but Walsh retired the next three batters to prevent High Point from taking the lead.  

Missouri responded in the bottom of the ninth as two walks and a game-winning hit by catcher Ben Turner gave the Tigers their first walk-off win of the 2012 season. The 8-7 win extended Missouri's winning streak to nine games.

After the game, coach Tim Jamieson dwelled on Walsh's composure more than the first-pitch mistake. 

"After the lead-off home run in the ninth and then the base hit, it would've been real easy to cave in in that situation, and he put up a zero after that," Jamieson said. "He gave us a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, and then we responded the right way."

In a game that was back-and-forth all night, Missouri's bullpen helped keep the Tigers in the game. Dusty Ross allowed only one hit in two innings, and Walsh allowed only the home run. 

Starting pitcher Rob Zastryzny, who allowed six runs over 5 2/3 innings, had no animosity toward Walsh for failing to preserve his win.

"He gave up a homer late in the game, but it didn't matter," he said. "He threw his butt off."

Zastryzny was grateful for the help of his relievers on a night where his performance was sub-par. 

"I'm really excited that the pen's got my back this year," he said. "It takes the pressure off me to go deeper in games when I know they can do a great job."

Jamieson praised his team's ability to respond to pressure throughout its current nine-game winning streak. 

"Every time they've done something, we've found a way to respond in a positive way," he said. 

Missouri and High Point will face off again Saturday, with Blake Holovach taking the mound for the Tigers. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.

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