Mizzou bats stay hot in series-clinching win over FIU
MIAMI - Missouri's offense clicked for the third game in a row Sunday afternoon, as the Tigers powered up to homer three times in a 9-5 victory over Florida International at FIU Baseball Field.
Hank Zeisler's fourth home run in as many games against the Panthers answered a three-run FIU rally and handed Mizzou an insurmountable 8-3 lead in the sixth. That shot capped a red-hot weekend for the Mizzou first baseman, who homered four times and drove in nine runs altogether against FIU.
Mizzou starter Rorik Maltrud enjoyed a strong performance as well. The right-hander was perfect through four innings, retiring the first 12 Panther hitters of the game. Maltrud recorded strikeouts in all four frames, including the fourth, when he punched out the side.
Luke Mann, who reached base safely in four of his five trips to the plate, set the tone for the day with his second home run of the season to lead off the game.
One inning later, Matt Garcia added to the Mizzou lead with a two-run homer, after Ty Wilmsmeyer sparked a two-out threat with the first of his two doubles on the day. Mann singled in the fifth, then came around on Dalton Bargo's two-out double to extend the margin to 4-0.
FIU finally put its first batter of the day on base in the fifth, as leadoff man Ryne Guida lofted a fly ball to right just beyond the reach of Cam Chick for a double. That ended the afternoon for Maltrud, who finished with six strikeouts.
Held in check through the first five innings, the Panthers broke through in the sixth, using a two-out rally to score three times.
But Mizzou responded in a big way the following inning, taking advantage of the generosity of the FIU pitching staff and another big blow from Zeisler to score four times and claim its largest lead of the day. Back-to-back hit batsmen, followed by a walk to Bargo loaded the bases, and Trevor Austin's fielder's choice bouncer to short plated the first run of the rally.
Next, Zeisler laid into a CJ McKennitt pitch and lined a three-run homer down the right-field line to give Mizzou an 8-3 advantage.
The Panthers scored a pair in the eighth on Marcus O'Malley's pinch-hit, two-run double, but Austin Troesser put the brakes on FIU's rally. The right-hander retired three straight hitters with a runner in scoring position to end the inning, then closed out the victory with a scoreless ninth for his first save as a Tiger.
Mann finished the day 2-for-3 with three runs scored, while Garcia added a 2-for-5 effort and drove in three runs. Wilmsmeyer chipped in with two hits, finishing the series with a team-high six hits and three steals in the four games.
Mizzou returns to Columbia Tuesday (Feb. 28) to open its 2023 home slate-and a 12-game home stand-with a 3 p.m. contest against Lindenwood at Taylor Stadium.