For Missouri pitcher Doug Mathis, Wednesday night’s game against Illinois State meant more than an early-season nonconference game usually does.
It was a chance to redeem himself for what he considered a poor performance in his last start. Mathis did just that, working out of early jams and shutting out the Redbirds through five innings to lead the Tigers to a 15-2 win at Taylor Stadium. Missouri improved to 10-4.
Mathis gave up four runs in four innings and fell behind early in a 7-6 loss against Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
“I had pretty good stuff that day, but mentally I wasn’t really there,” Mathis said. “Early, I was just kind of out there doing my own thing and not really being as focused as I should have been.”
Mathis got into early trouble again Wednesday, but kept the Redbirds (4-6) from scoring. In the top of the first, Illinois State put a runner on with one out, but Mathis got Ryan Anetsberger to ground the ball back to the mound to start an inning-ending double play.
“I made a goal before the game to kind of stay focused all game,” Mathis said. “Come out and set a tone early rather than being relaxed and letting them.”
The second inning presented another challenge.
Illinois State’s Kyle O’Brien hit a single into right-center field that appeared as if it would score the game’s first run. But freshman right fielder Jacob Priday threw a strike to first baseman Derek Chambers, who relayed the ball to the plate in time for the first out.
Mathis hit the next batter to load the bases with one out but struck out the next two hitters to get out of the jam unscathed.
He retired the next nine Redbird batters, the Tigers offense got hot, and by the time Mathis left the game, it was 10-0.
“The second inning especially kind of set the tone for the rest of the game,” Mathis said. “Once I got out of that, I just kind of went out there making them make the mistakes instead of me.”
Coach Tim Jamieson also said Mathis’ ability to work out of jams was crucial.
“He pitched to get tough and made some good pitches in that situation,” Jamieson said. “At that time, if they put up a big number there, the complexion of the game might be completely different.”
Instead, the Tigers came out and scored seven runs in the next three innings and then waited for junior outfielder James Boone to turn the game into a blowout.
Boone walked to the plate with two outs in the fourth and crushed a 3-1 pitch well over the wall in right field for his third home run of the year.
“He left a fastball up a little bit, and I hit it about as hard as I could hit a ball,” said Boone, who has 26 RBIs in 14 games this season. “It felt good. It felt real good.”
Boone said Mathis’ control of the game after the first two innings made it easy for the hitters to find a rhythm.
“Our pitchers really did a great job controlling the tempo of the game,” he said. “It was in and out going out there (to play defense).”