Feb. 15, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Mizzou baseball team lost its season-opener at No. 23 Southern Miss, 5-2, on Friday evening (Feb. 15) at Pete Taylor Park. The Tigers were shut down by preseason All-American Andrew Pierce who earned the win after going 7.0 innings, allowing just six hits, one earned run and a walk while striking out nine. Tiger starter Rob Zastryzny (Corpus Christi, Texas) was tagged with the loss after allowing four hits and three earned runs over 5.1 innings. He struck out three but walked four and hit two more batters in the loss.
Junior college transfer Kendall Keeton (Columbia, Tenn.) was a bright spot for the Tigers as he reached base in all four plate appearances, including an RBI single in the ninth and a double and a run in the third. Mizzou gave Southern Miss too many base runners as the pitching staff issued six walks while hitting two batters along with two errors from the Tiger defense. In all, Mizzou gave USM 10 extra base runners on the day. In all, USM tallied just six hits in the game while Mizzou had nine.
After the Tigers were retired in order in the top of the first, Zastryzny took to the mound and allowed a leadoff single back up the middle to Connor Barron as USM got its leadoff man aboard. He was sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt, but Zastryzny got preseason All-American Mason Robbins to pop up to short. After what seemed to be an unintentional intentional walk to Blake Brown, second baseman Isaac Rodriguez hit a seeing-eye single through the right side to play Barron, putting USM back on the hill.
Pierce took to the mound in the top of the second and pitched around a batter and a the first Tiger hit of the season from junior catcher Dylan Kelly (Roswell, Ga.) and left two men stranded on base after Gavin Stark (Lee's Summit, Mo.) flew out to left. Zastryzny breezed through the second inning and then the Tigers got the bats going in the top of the third.
Keeton led off the frame with a double down the left field line, setting it up for leadoff hitter Sal Belfonte
(Kansas City, Mo.). Looking to lay down a sacrifice bunt, Belfonte singled on a bunt down the third base line after beating the throw from Pierce. Belfonte then stole second and after a strike out from Brannon Champagne
(St. Charles, Mo.), Keaton Steele
(St. Joseph, Mo.) hit an infield single to plate Keeton for the Tigers' first run of the season. A steal and a strike out from Scott Sommerfeld
(Manchester, Mo.) ended the threat and stranded a Tiger in scoring position, but Mizzou evened the score at 1-1 headed to the bottom of the frame.
Things stayed that way as both starting pitchers remained locked in until Zastryzny issued a two straight walks to USM to open the sixth inning. After a sacrifice bunt, Zastryzny allowed a single back up the middle to Chase Fowler to plate a pair of runs, putting USM on top, 3-1. That ended Zastryzny's day in favor of John Miles (Columbia, Mo.) from the Tiger pen. Miles mopped up the rest of the inning, but Mizzou couldn't close the gap in the top of the seventh despite Keeton's second hit of the day.
Miles was then the victim of some poor defense, some at his own accord in the bottom of the seventh. He gave up a leadoff single and then Keeton bobbled a taylor-made double-play ball at second and then Miles misplayed a sacrifice bunt attempt to load the bases with no outs. USM tallied a groundout and a sacrifice fly in back-to-back at-bats to take a 5-1 lead headed to the eighth. Both runs were unearned. Alec Rash (Adel, Iowa) made his Tiger debut in the bottom of the eighth, getting through the frame on just 10 pitches with his first career strikeout.
Mizzou attempted to rally in the ninth as a slew of Tiger newcomers tallied three straight hits to plate a run on Keeton's RBI single. But sophomore Case Munson (St. Charles, Mo.) hit into a 5-4-3 double play that was smoked to third to end the game.
Game two of the series will be tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Hattiesburg. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MUTigerBaseball.