The University of Missouri Tigers baseball team’s Southeastern Conference-opening series at top-ranked Florida didn’t go very well last weekend. But the Tigers will have a chance to rebound against visiting Vanderbilt this weekend.
Missouri (14-9 overall, 0-3 in SEC play) was swept in the three-game series against No. 1 Florida but now hosts Vanderbilt (17-4, 1-2) for a three-game series beginning Friday at 5 p.m. at Taylor Stadium.
Ranked fourth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, Vanderbilt has lost three of its last four games, including a 7-4 loss on Tuesday at Middle Tennessee State where the Commodores committed six errors.
“It’s like rolling Adam Vinatieri out there to kick field goals,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told the Nashville Tennessean. “He misses a couple and you go, ‘Oh my gosh.’ This guy has been good his whole life then he misses a couple, but he’s still good. He’ll cut that off with the next field goal. That’s how I feel about our kids.
“The people that we had in place intertwined in (those losses), I trust them a lot. They come up big more than anything.”
Vanderbilt is 10-0 against Missouri in the all-time series and won all four meetings against the Tigers a year ago.
Friday’s series opener will feature a can’t-miss pitching duel between Missouri senior right-hander Reggie McClain (3-0, 1.11) and Vanderbilt redshirt sophomore righty Jordan Sheffield (3-1, 0.88), who is considered one of the top prospects available in the 2016 Major League Draft.
The Tigers will throw sophomore right-hander Tanner Houck (2-2, 2.65) on Saturday and then senior lefty Austin Tribby (2-2, 4.40) on Sunday. Vanderbilt hasn’t announced its Saturday or Sunday starters, but junior lefty Ben Bowden (2-0, 4.68) and Kyle Wright (4-0, 1.77) have each started five games already this season.
The Missouri offense has been led by junior center fielder Jake Ring (.345, nine extra-base hits, 14 RBIs, 15 runs, .456 on-base percentage), freshman designated hitter Brian Sharp (.317, 12 RBIs, 13 runs, .446 OBP) and senior first baseman Zach Lavy (.310, 13 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs, 22 runs).
Vanderbilt has six players batting .300 or better, led by sophomore right fielder Jeren Kendall (.381, 11 extra-base hits, 23 RBIs, 26 runs, .465 OBP), junior catcher Jason Delay (.340, six doubles, 18 RBIs) and junior center fielder Bryan Reynolds (.325, 11 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs, 23 runs, .470 OBP).