One big inning is often the winning margin in baseball, and that big inning Saturday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium went to Missouri as the Tigers took their second consecutive win over Alabama on the first weekend of Southeastern Conference competition. Alabama fell by a 7-4 score as Missouri’s three-run sixth inning proved the difference.
The third straight loss drops the Crimson Tide to 10-9 on the season, 0-2 in SEC play. Missouri has now won 18 consecutive games after having lost its first game of the season.
Alabama will try to avoid the Southeastern Conference sweep Sunday, a noon start at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Alabama’s starting pitcher will be senior right-hander Nick Eicholtz and Missouri will go with junior righty Andy Toelken. SEC Network will televise the game.
Eicholtz had been expected to be Bama’s Saturday starting pitcher. That job went instead to left-hander Dylan Duarte, who pitched into the fourth inning before giving way to the relief corps. Duarte gave up four earned runs and six hits with four strikeouts and four walks. He took the loss and is now 1-1. Michael Plassmeyer got the win for Missouri and is now 4-0 on the year.
Missouri jumped out to a two-run lead after the first half inning, but Alabama answered with one run in the bottom of the second. The teams matched with two runs apiece in the top and bottom of the fourth before the Tigers’ three-run sixth pushed MU out front for the win. The Tide plated one in the bottom of the eighth, but three hard-hit balls to the outfield could not find open space and ended the Alabama comeback effort.
Alabama had battled back to trail by only a run at 4-3 after five innings, but Missouri staked itself to a four-run lead with three runs in the top of the sixth.
The Tigers got two singles and a walk to load the bases. A single scored one run, a wild pitch brought home another, and back-to-back bases on balls made it 7-3. That was three hits and three walks for Mizzou.
Alabama had a chance in the eighth inning when the Tide loaded the bases with no outs, but managed to get only one run home.
The Tide used a leadoff walk and a pair of singles to load the bases in the inning. Cobie Vance followed with a lineout to left for the sacrifice to make it 7-4 game with one down. The next two hitters sent shots off the bat to the outfield but both went right to a Tiger fielder, ending the inning with two left on.
"You look at those last nine outs, besides that one pop-up, and we had some really good at-bats,” said Alabama Coach Greg Goff. “I was really pleased with how our guys didn't give up today. I think our team is resilient, and we were one knock away from tying the game up. Defensively and pitching-wise, we kept letting them get out in front and hopefully, tomorrow, we can put some zeroes up early."
The Tigers scored a pair in the top of the first. A leadoff triple and a walk put runners on the corners before a sacrifice fly crossed the first run. Following a two-out walk, the Tigers added a second run on a single to right. There was a close play at the plate with the MU runner sliding under the tag.
Alabama got on the board in the bottom of the second as Kyle Kaufman took a 1-1 pitch deep to left for a solo home run. The homer was the first of Kaufman’s Alabama career.
Both teams went scoreless until the fourth. In the top half of the frame, Missouri used a leadoff walk and a one-out double to put two in scoring position. A suicide squeeze by the Tigers scored one, as the bunt fell in front of the pitcher’s mound allowing the runner from third to cross and end Duarte’s day. After a pitching change, a walk and a sacrifice fly to right scored one more to make it 4-1.
The Tide would answer in the bottom of that inning with a pair of two-out runs to make it a 4-3 game. Hunter Alexander and Cody Henry delivered back-to-back two-out doubles for one run, and Kaufman’s single for his second RBI made it a 4-3 game.