ATHENS, Ga. - The Mizzou Baseball team recaptured its winning ways Friday night as the Tigers used a five-run third inning and key pitching out of the bullpen by junior RHP Cole Bartlett (Williamsburg, Ind.) to defeat Georgia, 8-5 at Foley Field. A pair of two-run singles in the third by junior 3B Alex Samples (Bridgeport, Texas) and freshman SS Chris Cornelius (St. Louis, Mo.) were the key blows in the inning that put Mizzou ahead 7-1 at the time. The win evened the three-game series at one win apiece, and improved Mizzou to 22-9 overall and 5-6 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Bulldogs fell to 14-18 and 4-7. The victory also broke a seven-game losing streak that saw Mizzou drop five one-run ballgames during the stretch.
Mizzou's pitchers scattered 14 hits, but stranded 14 Georgia baserunners on the evening. Bartlett (4-0) was very effective out of the 'pen, and he received the win after going the final 4.1 innings in scoreless relief to close out the game. Bartlett entered in the bottom of the fifth with two on and two out and Mizzou leading 8-5, and he induced an inning-ending groundout to end the threat. He struck out three batters and allowed four hits on the night.
After being shut out for the first time this season last night, the Tiger offense wasted no time Friday, thanks to a two-run first-inning opposite field home run by junior RF and Georgia native Trey Harris (Powder Springs, Ga.). His fifth long ball of the season gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead and came two batters after senior CF Kirby McGuire (Round Rock, Texas) led off the game with a walk. The Bulldogs cut the Mizzou lead in half in the bottom of the frame, scoring a run on a double and two singles off sophomore LHP Michael Plassmeyer. Plassmeyer would pitch 3.2 innings and allow three runs on eight hits and four strikeouts with one walk in his no-decision.
The Tigers sent nine batters to the plate in the decisive third inning. Four singles and a pair of walks did the damage, including the two-run singles by Samples and Cornelius. Samples flared one down the right field line with one out to make it 5-1, and Cornelius followed later with a sharp two-out single up the middle for a 7-1 advantage. McGuire again was the catalyst of the rally, as he led off the inning with a perfect bunt single, and the Tigers would load the bases with no outs, after freshman LF Kameron Misner (Poplar Bluff, Mo.) singled and Harris walked. Freshman DH A.J. Lewis brought in the first run of the frame for the Tigers as he coaxed a bases-loaded walk to score McGuire, for his first career run batted in that made it 3-1 at the time.
Georgia again responded with a pair of runs on three hits and a walk to close to within 7-3. McGuire single-handedly extended Mizzou's lead to 8-3 in the fourth inning, as he led off the frame being hit by a pitch. He promptly stole second base and then stole third, and he raced home when an errant throw from Georgia's catcher trying to cut him down at third base bounced into left field.
Mizzou's freshman sensation LHP T.J. Sikkema, named a mid-season first-team Rawlings All-American earlier this week, came on in relief in the bottom of the fourth to thwart a potential Georgia rally. Plassmeyer left with two on and two out in the fourth, and after Sikkema issued a walk to load the bases, he left them loaded when he struck out the UGA cleanup hitter to end the inning. Sikkema got into trouble in the fifth, allowing two runs (only one earned) on a walk, error and a pair of run-scoring singles that made it 8-5. But Bartlett put out the fire by getting an inning-ending groundout to preserve the lead.
The final game of the three-game set will take place at 1:30 p.m. (eastern) from brand new SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Ga. (radio on KTGR Radio in Columbia and www.ktgr.com). The Tigers will return home for a six-game homestand, beginning Tuesday, April 11 vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff. For all the latest on all things Mizzou Baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team @MizzouBaseball and like the team on Facebook and Instagram (Missouri Baseball).
Head Coach Steve Bieser Quotes
Opening statement... "Those victories feel much better than what we just went through there for that stretch. It is just one game, but I liked the effort that we gave today and I liked the way we came out early with the mindset of getting things done. I thought we played hard."
On his offense's execution tonight...
"Kirby did a great job in the leadoff spot, finding ways to get on base, and we executed a hit-and-run and we executed a push bunt, the stolen bases, those things add up. We talked about that today, we have to be aggressive to get ourselves out of the slump. That's what we've seen earlier this season, and that's why we were successful is grinding out at bats and sticking your nose in there. It doesn't have to be pretty, and I think sometimes we get caught up in trying to look good, and we just need to be gritty, stick your nose in there and find a way to get a bat on the ball."
Senior CF Kirby McGuire
On the offense tonight... "Getting the leadoff guy on is really big and if you get the leadoff guy on, you can execute the offense. In the first inning I got on and Kam bunted me over and Trey got the big home run. In the third inning I got on and Kam got me over with the hit-and-run and we had a big rally going."
McGuire, who hit leadoff for the first time this season, was a firestarter at the top of the lineup all night as he reached base 3 times and scored 3 runs. He led off the game with a walk, his fourth of the year, and came around to score on Harris' two-run home run two batters later. McGuire's game-opening free pass marked a much better start for Mizzou, as the Tigers didn't have a base runner Thursday night until the 4th inning. McGuire's perfect bunt single to lead off the 3rd was the start of a 5-run inning, and he led off the 4th reaching via HBP, stole 2nd and 3rd (his 3rd and 4th steals of the year) and scored on a throwing error by the UGA catcher as he stole 3rd... Harris' 1st-inning bomb gave him a new career high for a season, with his 5th. He had five career homers coming into this season, including four as a freshman in 2015, and one in 2016... Harris' homer was his second of the week, after hitting one Tuesday against Illinois in St. Louis. It also marked his second career round-tripper at UGA, matching the one he hit as a freshman in 2015... Mizzou's 5-run 3rd inning marked the most runs in an inning for the Tiger offense since a 6-run 6th inning in a 7-2 win over Arkansas on March 25th...