A record-crowd of 3,481 at Taylor Stadium gave the Missouri baseball team the momentum it needed for a 10-2 win over Kent State on Friday night in its NCAA regional opener.
"I thought it was awesome, having everybody there," said starting Tigers pitcher Aaron Crow, who gave the fans credit for his five-hit complete-game.
"It helped pumped me up...The fans were awesome tonight."
Even Missouri coach Tim Jamieson, in his 13th season at Missouri, was stunned.
"There’s no comparison," Jamieson said. "Not only did we set a record, but we blew away whatever the old record was. You could just feel the excitement all week."
Crow’s 119-pitch, eight-strikeout outing, and a sixth-inning grand slam by first baseman John McKee highlighted the victory.
"The key to the game was Aaron Crow’s command of the strike zone," Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "When you go nine innings and don’t walk a batter...I think that’s the difference in the game.
"He was as good as advertised. He pitches with a lot of emotion, and you can tell his team feeds of off it too."
With highly-touted Chris Carpenter on the mound for Kent State (33-25), both teams anticipated a pitchers’ duel. For the first three innings, Carpenter, who is expected to be picked in the first or second round in next week’s Major League draft, was unhittable. A two-run single by Missouri catcher Trevor Coleman was a catalyst for the Tigers (41-16).
"I think these guys were a little too jacked up early in the game," Jamieson said. "I think Trevor’s hit (relaxed us), and we got the two runs on the board."
A five-run fifth inning, including McKee’s grand slam, drove Carpenter from the game. Carpenter said that once things started going bad, the pressure made the situation seem too dire to overcome, more dire than it really was perhaps.
"Playing in front of 35,000 fans against you," Carpenter said, "it definitely gets in your head when things start going wrong."
Stricklin quickly corrected his pitcher after some chuckles from the media.
"But I know it seemed like 35,000," Stricklin said.
Coleman said he is used to big crowds, but not in Friday night’s context.
"When you usually see the big crowds," Coleman said, "it’s on the road and they’re barking at you.Instead, this time, they were on our side and were yelling when Aaron (Crow) was throwing instead of when the other guy was throwing."
McKee’s grand slam, which ended any chance of a Kent State comeback, came after he battled Carpenter to a full-count.
"I had a little too much adrenaline running through my body," the first baseman said, "and didn’t really harness it too well. But I settled down and just put a great swing on it."
The fans made McKee's shining moment even more memorable.
"It feels really good," he said through a grin, "especially when you’ve got 3,500 behind you, screaming for you. It can’t get much better than that."
Top-seeded Missouri takes on No. 3 seed Louisville, which beat Miami 13-7 in Friday’s opener, at 6:30 p.m Saturday. Miami and Kent State play at 1 p.m. Saturday.