Scooter Hicks is used to pitching in small doses. He’s appeared in six games this season, but has only pitched 7 2/3 total innings.
He’s also used to the relative safety of pitching as middle relief. He typically enters the game around the seventh inning, after the Tigers’ starter leaves, and before closer Kyle Gibson enters.
But Saturday against Kansas (16-16, 3-5) at Taylor Stadium, Gibson was unavailable, the Tigers were in a jam, and it was Hicks’ turn to close the game out.
After reliever Stephan Holst gave up two runs in the ninth inning to cut Missouri’s 8-5 eighth-inning lead to a single run, Jamieson called on Hicks to secure the game’s last out with the tying run on second base. Four pitches later, Hicks had earned his first save of the year and brought No. 25 Missouri (21-8, 3-2) out of its brief three-game losing streak.
Hicks said that he didn’t look at coming into his first save situation, with such little room for error, much differently from any of his other appearances.
“You gotta make sure you make better pitches and do all the small things right,” he said. “But after that, I just try to keep everything the same and treat it as any other situation.”
Jamieson said that the extended time (2 1/3 innings) Gibson pitched in a failed save attempt on Friday night and the general fatigue level of the bullpen led to Hicks’ first save opportunity.
“I think Stephan (Holst) was out of gas. He started on Tuesday, and he’s still not where he’s going to be at the end of the season,” Jamieson said. “And after using Kyle (Gibson) more than you want (in recent games), you’re left pretty inexperienced.”
Center fielder Evan Frey was responsible for much of the offensive end of Missouri’s victory. He went 3-6 with five RBIs in the game, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning that regained the lead for the Tigers and brought starter Rick Zagone (5-0) back in position to earn the win and remain undefeated on the year.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re behind your teammates to get the runs back,” said Zagone, who allowed five earned runs off of nine hits in an up-and-down seven innings of work.
After his brief outing, Hicks said that he doesn’t mind having a changing role on the team, as long as it keeps winning.
“It was a long day today,” Hicks said with a laugh after the game. “I’m just doing whatever I can do to contribute to the team, in any role. I’m prepared for it all.”