COLUMBIA — It all seemed to come together for Eric Anderson.
The starter for the Missouri baseball team, who was pitching on the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery and the three-year anniversary of shoulder surgery, matched his career innings mark, and the Tigers came from behind for a 4-3 victory against Kentucky on Friday night at Taylor Stadium.
The right-hander was in control most of the game, giving up just four hits in 7 1/3 innings. He got in trouble the three-run third inning, though, walking Micheal Thomas and then hitting A.J. Reed with the bases loaded.
"He had that one rough inning, but he gave us a chance after that to go out and win," Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said.
Jamieson and his staff were keeping track of another game Friday night, getting updates from the Taylor Stadium public address announcer on the Tennessee game against Texas A&M. Jamieson knew that a Tennessee loss or a Missouri win would ensure the Tigers the 12th and final spot in the Southeastern Conference tournament next week in Hoover, Ala., but he said his guys wanted to earn their spot.
After the third inning, it looked as if Missouri had a better shot getting in via a Tennessee loss. But in the bottom of the sixth, things fell into place. Trailing 3-1, the Missouri bench was on its feet for two reasons: Tennessee was down to its final out and about to lose 8-4 to the Aggies, and the Tigers had the bases loaded with Shane Segovia up to bat.
The third baseman smacked the ball into center field for a single, scoring two runs to tie the game. Then, as the fans rose to their feet, it was announced that Tennessee had lost. The Tigers were in.
"I knew if I went out and got a win tonight, we'd be in," Anderson said. "I didn't know they (the Volunteers) lost tonight, and we clinched it, until I came out."
After Anderson was taken out to a standing ovation in the eighth, Keaton Steele further solidified Missouri's place in Hoover with a solo home run. Steele then closed out the game on the mound, and Missouri (18-30, 10-19 SEC) clinched the series against Kentucky.
"It was a little déjà vu," said Steele, who also hit a home run and closed the game last year for Iowa Western Community College to win the Junior College World Series. "(Tonight) was the biggest high I've had since then."
But no one felt better after the game than Anderson, who has had a trying and injury-plagued career for the Tigers. He told Jamieson before the game that he would go out and play well on this trying anniversary. Now, he's just looking to move on and help the Tigers in Hoover.
"I think (the anniversary) was just motivation enough to just go out there and compete," Anderson said.
Missouri looks to sweep its series with Kentucky on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.