Both teams are using wood bats on a gorgeous early April day in St. Louis. The crack of a wood bat is a nice departure from the ping of a metal bat, that's for sure.
Willie Argo CF
Michael Giller 1B
Casey McMurray LF
Aaron Johnson C
Brandon Hohl 3B
Craig Lutes RF
Pete Cappetta 2B
Adam Davis DH
Josh Parr SS
Kevin Manson P
Michael Liberto SS
Aaron Senne 1B
Brett Nicholas C
Andreas Plackis DH
Dane Opel LF
Jonah Schmidt RF
Eric Garcia 2B
Blake Brown CF
Andrew Thigpen 3B
Zack Hardoin P
Bottom 1—Brett Nicholas gets the scoring started with an RBI double to deep right. I'd estimate Nicholas hit the ball about 375 feet as it landed right in front of the Hardee's ad in right-center. Obviously, that ball is long gone for a home run with a metal bat at Taylor Stadium.
Top 2—Illinois gets the run right back on an RBI single to right by Josh Parr and then takes the lead on a double steal of second and home. Illinois seemed determined to run all over the batter of Hardoin and Nicholas, and it worked to perfection.
After a walk, Hardoin was pulled from the game for Phil McCormick, signaling that tonight is a Johnny Wholestaff kind of night.
McCormick gave up a couple of RBI singles that put Illinois up 4-0.
It's still a little concerning for Mizzou's bullpen to get off to a bad start today given how the bullpen struggled over the weekend against Baylor. If Tim Jamieson does go for a Johnny Wholestaff approach, this game will be a good opportunity for some of Mizzou's relievers to get a positive inning under their belt before this weekend's series at Oklahoma.
McCormick hasn't been able to do that, though.
Bottom 2—Mike Liberto registers the first broken bat of the day coming on a foul ball. He would later reach on a fielder's choice/throwing error by third baseman Brandon Hohl that allowed Blake Brown, who reached on a single to lead off the inning, to reach third.
A bloop single by Aaron Senne brought home brown to cut the score to 4-2. Brett Nicholas then beat out a double play, but Andreas Plackis was robbed by a sliding Josh Parr on a ground ball up the middle to end the inning.
Top 3—Nice bounceback inning for McCormick, as he retired Illinois' fifth, sixth, and seventh hitters in order. There's activity in Mizzou's bullpen, so the sidearming McCormick likely reached his peak at 1.2 innings.
But, more importantly, McCormick will have something positive to work with heading into this weekend's Big 12 series.
Bottom 3—An RBI double by Blake Brown cut Illinois' lead to 4-3. He's hit the ball hard both times up today.
A walk by Andrew Thigpen loaded the bases for Mike Liberto, who hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop Josh Parr. The ball took a terrible hop and skipped past Parr into center field to allow two runs to score and put Mizzou up 5-4.
Top 4—Brad Buehler is in the game. It'll be interesting to see how Mizzou uses him—coach Tim Jamieson intimated on Sunday that Buehler could get a look as a weekend starter, but if he goes more than an inning today that'll be out the window for the Oklahoma series.
Buehler looked fantastic in the inning, striking out the side.
Top 5—Ryan Clubb comes in to pitch, so maybe Buehler will get a look on Sunday after all. That would mean Aaron Blunt would be bumped from the rotation, at least for the time being.
Top 7—This game has settled into a nice little groove for Missouri. Buehler (5th), Kelly Fick (6th), and Tyler Clark (7th) didn't allow a hit in their respective innings of work.
Mizzou's bullpen looks like it's rolling right now. No runs have scored off it since the second inning.
Top 8—Aaron Blunt pitched the eighth and got some big-time help from Eric Garcia, who made two outstanding plays at second base to take away a pair of Illinois hits. On the first one, Garcia ranged up the middle to the shortstop side of second, gloved the ball, planted, and fired a strike to first to get the out.
He topped that with a diving stop on a ground ball up the middle, leaving his feat, gloving the ball, getting up, and threw a bullet to first to end the inning.
It's still 5-4 Mizzou in the bottom of the eighth.
Bottom 8—Ryan Ampleman, pinch-hitting for Jonah Schmidt, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to give Mizzou a 6-4 lead and Eric Garcia extended that lead to 7-4 with a sacrifice fly.
Top 9—Emens retires Illinois in order to nail down the save.
This was a great performance by Mizzou's bullpen after allowing so many runs in last weekend's Baylor series. Now, they have the not-so-easy task of converting the momentum from this game into success in Norman against a very good Oklahoma team over the weekend.