KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Mizzou junior INF Matt Berler (Hoover, Ala.) hit a two-out grand slam in the top of the fifth inning to lift Mizzou Baseball over Tennessee, 5-0, Thursday night in the first of a three-game series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Mizzou loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth inning and Tennessee nearly escaped before Berler, the nine-hole hitter, pounded a 2-1 fastball over the fence in left field to clear the bases and break a 0-0 tie.
Mizzou moves to 33-21 on the year and 12-16 in SEC play and it has now won four in a row. The Tigers' 33 wins are the most during the regular season for the program since 2008 when the Tigers won 37 before entering postseason play. The 33 wins match the most for Mizzou since winning 35 in 2009.
Freshman LHP T.J. Sikkema (DeWitt, Iowa) was brilliant in his second career start, earning his team-best eighth win of the season. That is the most wins for a Mizzou true freshman since current Mizzou junior Tanner Houck (Collinsville, Ill.) had eight during his freshman year in 2015. Sikkema tossed Mizzou's first complete game shutout since Reggie McClain shutout Sam Houston State on Feb. 20, 2015. He struck out seven and walked none while scattering just four hits. The shutout on Thursday was Mizzou's fifth of the year and first since May 2, 2017, against Murray State. It was Mizzou's first SEC Shutout since March 17 at Alabama in the SEC opener.
The game was a pitcher's duel early as Tennessee starter Hunter Martin retired the first 12 Mizzou batters while Sikkema retired 12 of the first 15 batters he faced. Junior C Brett Bond (St. Louis, Mo.) was the first Mizzou batter to get to Martin, dropping in a leadoff single in the fifth inning. That led to a bases-loaded, no-out spot following another infield hit and an error. Tennessee then retired the next two Mizzou batters and looked like it would escape unscathed. But Berler hit his first Division I homer for a grand slam to give Mizzou a 4-0 lead.
Mizzou added insurance as Kameron Misner (Poplar Bluff, Mo.) scored on a fielder's choice in the top of the seventh inning, giving Mizzou a 5-0 lead.
From there, Sikkema was brilliant, shutting down the Vols for the final three frames to seal the win.
Mizzou and Tennessee will play game two of the series tomorrow at 5 p.m. (CT). For all the latest on all things Mizzou Baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on Twitter @MizzouBaseball and like the team on Facebook and Instagram (Missouri Baseball).
Potent Quotables Head Coach Steve Bieser
Opening statement... "Well I liked that fact that we did a good job of taking advantage of opportunities. That's something we were doing early in the year. We came out I thought a little flat in our at-bats. We had such a good batting practice and everyone was really locked in so we got just a little complacent there early in the game with our at-bats and Hunter Martin was pretty good early. You have to give him credit. We did a good job of settling in in the game and making some things happen. Then the big blow by Matt Berler kind of relaxed us and we started having some even better at-bats after that."
Junior INF Matt Berler On his grand slam... "It was great to come through in a big situation like that. It was a clutch situation. Thinking small helped me end big. I had the same count in my first at-bat and I missed it a little bit. Ball got on me and I made a slight adjustment in that same count and it worked out for me."
Mizzou now leads the all-time series with Tennessee, 8-5. Mizzou has won four of seven meetings between the two teams in Knoxville. Mizzou moves to 2-1 on Thursdays this season Mizzou has now won four games in a row. The Tigers' 33 wins are the most in the regular season for the program since 2008 when the Tigers won 37 before entering postseason play. The 33 wins match the most for Mizzou since winning 35 in 2009. Junior Matt Berler hit his first Division I homer Thursday, a grand slam in the fifth inning. Berler's grand slam was Mizzou's first since Zach Lavy hit on May 14, 2016, at Taylor Stadium. Berler set a new career-high with four RBI on Thursday. His four RBI on Thursday match his total from his previous 23 games combined. Freshman LHP T.J. Sikkema pitched a career-long 9.0 innings Thursday, tossing Mizzou's first complete game shutout since Feb. 20, 2015, when Reggie McClain accomplished it vs. Sam Houston State. Sikkema's eight wins on the year match the most by a Mizzou true freshman pitcher since Tanner Houck had eight in 2015. The shutout on Thursday was Mizzou's fifth shutout of the year and first since May 2, 2017, against Murray State. It was Mizzou's first SEC Shutout since March 17 at Alabama in the SEC opener.