For two weeks, no home runs would come for Missouri. The Tigers were winning, but they had to scratch and claw for every run they could get.
Freshman Jacob Priday changed all of that Sunday. Twice.
Priday had two two-run home runs in the Tigers’ 8-3 victory against Texas A&M at Taylor Stadium, leading Missouri to a sweep of the Aggies and an 8-1 Big 12 Conference record. Priday’s home runs were the first for Missouri since March 27.
“He’s a freshman who’s stronger than an ox, a country boy,” starting pitcher Doug Mathis said.
After junior James Boone walked to start the bottom of the second inning of a scoreless game, Priday stepped up and hit a first-pitch fastball into the left-field bullpen. The Tigers scored two more times later in the inning, chasing starting pitcher Chance Corgan and taking a 4-0 lead.
Texas A&M (22-13-1, 4-8 Big 12) cut the lead to 4-2 in the fifth and Aggie reliever Clayton Turner hadn’t given up a hit when sophomore Hunter Mense doubled to center to lead off the bottom of the inning. Two batters later, Priday, again swinging at the first pitch, hit his second blast. It was just out of the reach of left fielder Keith Stein, Jr., and gave Missouri a 6-2 lead.
“Runs are runs, any way we can get them,” Priday said. “…The wind definitely helped me out on that second one, and I’ll take it.”
Priday had struck out against Turner on a heavy diet of curveballs in the third, and was waiting when Turner threw him another curve to start the at-bat in the fifth.
“Jake has been struggling and you can tell he’s been swinging the bat better the last few days,” coach Tim Jamieson said. “First time, he gets a first-pitch fastball and hits it out, and then he made the adjustment for the breaking ball, and hit that one out.”
Second baseman Zane Taylor was another offensive weapon, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs.
Mathis, who improved to 3-2, had more than enough for the win. He pitched eight innings, scattering eight hits and giving up two runs while striking out eight. He did not walk a batter.
A key to Mathis’ performance, he said, was good defense. Shortstop Gary Arndt dropped a pop-up for the Tigers’ one error, but he made several other nice plays. Third baseman John McKee also made a lunging stop to rob Justin Pouk of a base hit in the sixth, and Priday, playing right field, threw out a runner at the plate to end the eighth inning.
“If we don’t have defense like that, I don’t go eight innings,” Mathis said. “The way the defense is playing, it takes a lot of pressure off.”
Missouri pitchers were strong all weekend. Six different Tiger pitchers gave up seven runs in 27 innings on the weekend and walked only four batters.
“As long as we’re throwing strikes, being aggressive and playing our game, we make it tough on a lot of teams,” Mathis said.
Missouri, which was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, improved to 26-6 overall and is 8-1 in conference play for the first time since 1981. The Tigers’ last sweep of Texas A&M came in 2000. Sunday’s win was also the 350th in Jamieson’s career.
“It’s great to see us playing the way we are, showing everybody that maybe we’re not as bad as people think,” Mathis said. “Obviously we’re doing something right. We’re first in the conference.”