For the first time in the history of Missouri baseball, the Tigers have lost six consecutive games to open a season.
A close game at Memphis on Sunday quickly turned into a rout in the bottom of the eighth inning, perpetuating a tendency to fall apart late in games that has already become a trend this season.
After dropping the first two games of the three-game set with Memphis on Friday and Saturday, there were still some early positive signs for Missouri on Sunday. Redshirt junior pitcher Eric Anderson returned to the rotation for the first time in just under a year, throwing two innings and allowing one run on two hits. Alec Rash, a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, relieved Anderson. In four innings of action, he struck out three batters and allowed only one hit, one walk and an unearned run.
Rash would prove to be the bullpen's lone star. His immediate successor, Dallas-native Jake Walsh, threw three wild pitches while facing four batters. Then, after cutting the lead to one run in the top of the eighth, Missouri allowed Memphis to open the floodgates, surrendering five runs in the bottom of the inning.
The biggest victim of the day was former Rock Bridge right-hander Ryan Phillips, who allowed five runs while retiring only one Memphis batter. Another Rock Bridge product, John Miles, replaced Phillips and threw a costly wild pitch to the first batter he faced.
Missouri's sloppy defense wasn't much help to the bullpen. The defense committed three errors Sunday, bringing the team's season total to 12 in six games.
Following the game, head coach Tim Jamieson told KTGR's Tex Little that the defense frustrated him more than the bullpen.
“It’s more the defense, Tex, than the bullpen," Jamieson said. "We get a leadoff out, then we drop a routine ground ball, we don’t make plays on bunts. Pitchers can do a better job, but we could sure make it easier for them.”
As troubling as the bullpen and defense have been for Missouri, run support has been bleak at best. In six games — three each against No. 21 Southern Mississippi and Memphis — the Missouri team has scored a total of 11 runs and no more than three in a single game. When asked if he sees his offense taking steps in the right direction, Jamieson was blunt in his response.
“Not a whole lot," Jamieson said. "We got a lot of work to do. We have to be much tougher outs if we do make outs. Our team on-base percentage is horrible. We’ve actually had some decent hits with two outs, scoring guys with runners in scoring position, but we’re not creating innings.”
Missouri is scheduled to open its home schedule 6 p.m. Friday against Northwestern with Rob Zastryzny on the mound.