Mizzou scores early, fends off Fighting Illini comeback
SAUGET, Ill. - Led by Juju Stevens big night at the plate, No. 25/29 Missouri scored six two-out runs to claim Braggin' Rights over Illinois with a 6-5 decision Tuesday evening at GCS Credit Union Ballpark.
Stevens reached base safely in each of his first three trips to the plate and drove in three runs to spark the Mizzou offense. The sophomore capped the Tigers' three-run first inning with a two-out, two-run double, before scoring a fourth-inning run and driving in another in the fifth.
Logan Lunceford turned in another strong start to earn his third straight win to start his Mizzou career, striking out nine and scattering four hits over his 5.0 innings.
The Tigers (18-6) would strike in the top of the first, as a Luke Mann base hit and a Trevor Austin single put runners on the corners. First baseman Hank Zeisler roped a single to right, bringing in Mann with the first tally of the game.
Stevens would keep the momentum going, lacing a double down the right-field line to chase home Austin and Zeisler, bringing Mizzou's lead to 3-0.
The Illini (11-10) got on the board in the bottom of the second, as Ryan Moerman jumped on the first pitch he saw from Logan Lunceford, launching a home run to left that drew Illinois to within two runs. Following a hit batsman and a successful sacrifice from Ty Wilmsmeyer to open the fourth, the Tigers generated another two-out tally to extend their lead. Justin Colon knocked in Missouri's fourth of the game, driving a base hit to left to bring in Stevens and give Mizzou a 4-1 advantage.
Illinois would get it back in the bottom of the frame, as Moerman continued his solid day at the plate, lacing a single into right-center field that scored Drake Wescott. Brody Hardy kept the rally alive, driving in a second run with a two-out single to trim the gap to one run.
Mizzou extended its run of two-out magic, capitalizing on two additional hit batsmen to score single runs in the next two innings as well. After Zeisler was struck by a Jake Swartz (0-1) pitch with two men out, Stevens drove in his third run of the night with an infield single to make it a 5-3 game.
Lunceford (3-0) cruised through the fifth, striking out the side to match his career-best strikeout total of nine.
In the sixth, another two-out hit batter came home to roost, as Mann came around on a wild pitch after a Jackson Lovich single, coupled with an Illini throwing error ignited another Mizzou threat.
But once again the Illini would answer a Tiger scoring rally in the bottom of the inning, when Westcott and Cam Janik delivered back-to-back doubles to start a sixth-inning rally. Moerman collected his third RBI of the contest on a sacrifice fly, and Cam Hejza singled home a second Illinois run to slice the Mizzou lead to 6-5.
After working out of the sixth inning with the lead intact, Rorik Maltrud settled into a groove and retired eight in a row. He worked 3.0 innings in all, allowing one run on two hits before handing the ball to Zach Franklin in the ninth.
Franklin closed the door on the Illini, striking out Hardy to start the inning, before Connor Milton doubled, but was called out after sliding past the bag at second. Jacob Schroeder then bounced out to short for the final out, giving Franklin his second save as a Tiger and the 13th of his collegiate career.
In addition to Stevens' 2-for-3 night, Mann chipped in with his eighth multi-hit effort of the season.
• Mizzou won its second straight Braggin' Rights contest, improving to 16-14-1 all-time vs. Illinois
• The Tigers pitching staff fanned 12 batters, giving it 17 double-digit strikeout performances in their 24 games this season
• Stevens logged his third multi-RBI game this season
• Thanks to a third inning walk, Dalton Bargo extended his on-base streak to nine straight games
• Lunceford's 9 Ks in the contest tied his career high (March 22 vs. Kansas)
• Mann collected two hits in the contest, his eighth game with multiple hits this season
• The Tigers improved to 5-0 in midweek contests
• Mizzou ran its record to 12-1 when scoring six or more runs
• The win is the Tigers 17th of the season when leading after six frames
• The Tigers remain undefeated when scoring first, winning all 16 contests when they get on the board first
Mizzou continues its stay in the St. Louis area with a Wednesday afternoon contest against Lindenwood. First pitch from the Lou Brock Sports Complex in St. Charles is set for 4 p.m. ET.