COLUMBIA — Ask Missouri senior pitcher Jake Walsh about his role on the baseball team, and he'll tell you he's "there for whatever."
In an 8-2 win against Florida on Sunday, that meant pitching for the third time in as many days after Missouri depleted its pitching staff in a 15-inning game Saturday evening.
"Well I knew that we used (Keaton) Steele and Eric (Anderson) yesterday," Walsh said. "So I told (the coaches) before the game my arm felt good, so I could extend it if I needed to and pump in strikes that will get kids out."
After freshman Alec Rash started losing his effectiveness after three innings of work, Walsh got the call to do just that. In addition to getting Rash out of a jam, Walsh pitched his longest outing of the season Sunday, 3 2/3 innings, allowing just one run — a home run by Florida's Taylor Gushue — on two hits.
"We felt like to win today, we had to have as much experience on the mound as we possibly could," said Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson. "Jake pitched all three days, so to be able to come out and go three and two-thirds is pretty big."
On top of his experience, Walsh is a particularly valuable asset for the Tigers because he is the only left-handed arm available out of the bullpen. In a game that is so often about matching up pitchers against hitters, he fills what would be a gaping void in the pitching staff by making himself available for every game.
"If they keep me at an inning each day, I’m able to do that, bounce back pretty well," Walsh said. "It’s almost a blessing because we don’t have any other lefties in the pen, so I really need to be able to get those crucial guys out and come in in those situations.”
With Walsh shutting down the Gators in the top of each inning, the Tigers offense produced in the latter half-innings. After ending Saturday's 15-inning game by going 13 innings without scoring a run, outfielder Logan Pearson took the Gators' first pitch Sunday over the right field fence for a home run. Even with the wind blowing in, there was never a question that Pearson's blast was leaving the park.
"He hit the heck out of it," Jamieson said. "Hey, whatever works, I told him. He went up there with a plan there and that’s what you want the guys to have, whatever it is. He waited for something right down the middle, he got it.”
The Tigers hit the ball hard all day Sunday, recording two more hits in nine innings than they had the day before in 15.
But even with the offense clicking, the focus was on Walsh after the game. Missouri junior catcher Dylan Kelly even had a nickname for the weekend warrior.
"The Iron Man, I guess you guys can call him or whatever, because he pitched Friday, Saturday and Sunday," Kelly said. "I thought today was his best day. He came out firm with the fastball, mixed pretty well, we got out when we needed to and he forced contact. He’s a great pitcher we have.”