Shut out for seven innings, Missouri baseball was embarrassed by Zach Barnes and Grand Canyon University on Friday, with the Tigers falling 11-3 in the season-opening contest in Phoenix.
Barnes shined on the rubber for Grand Canyon. Used out of the bullpen for his whole career, the senior made his debut start against the Tigers. Barnes was laser-accurate with his pitches, striking out 13 in seven innings pitched. The Tigers managed just two hits against the righty.
Late in the game, Missouri batters started to break out of their hitting funk. The Tigers put up three runs on GCU’s relievers in the final two frames to avoid being shut out. Designated hitter Chad McDaniel was the only Tiger with a multi-hit day, going 2 for 4. McDaniel also added a strikeout to Missouri’s whopping total.
Every Missouri hitter credited with an at-bat was punched out at least once, except for senior Mark Vierling and junior Josh Day, who pinch hit for second baseman Trevor Austin. Four Tigers struck out multiple times, having trouble seeing the zone and putting the bat on the ball.
In contrast, GCU’s hitters had Missouri starter Spencer Miles’ number nearly from the opening pitch. Miles showed flashes of his high upside but mostly struggled against the Lopes' hitters. The sophomore was tagged for nine hits in just 5.1 innings pitched, giving up seven runs. Most of the trouble came in the sixth inning, where GCU hung a snowman, putting up eight on Miles and Ben Pedersen in relief.
In total, the Lopes hit .371 against Missouri pitchers, going 8 of 16 with runners on base. Rightfielder Tayler Aguilar went off in the box, hitting 3 of 4 with a home run and four RBI. Aguilar scored two of the Lopes’ runs himself and added a walk.
Defense was the only bright part of Missouri’s play.
Luke Mann made some sweet plays at the hot corner. A web-gem dive saved a Juan Colato extra-base hit in the first inning, and when Colato tried to steal second, catcher Mike Coletta rifled down to second to nab him in the act. The Tigers did not commit an error over the course of the game and will surely hope the success trickles to other parts of their game for the rest of the series in Phoenix.
The Tigers perhaps were lacking in their ability to prepare for the opening series. In Arizona, GCU has an opportunity to play outside on its diamond almost every day. When baseball seasons start in mid-Missouri, however, the Tigers are lucky to carve out a few days on the field in January and February.
Seeing live pitching and live hitting is everything, and the Tigers have a ways to go before they’re in Southeastern Conference shape. They will meet the Lopes again for a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday.