Ryan Phillips was a big part of the outstanding Tiger bullpen over the weekend.
Feb. 16, 2014
By Brandon Weiss, MUTigers.com correspondent
LAKE CHARLES, La. -After weather derailed the Mizzou baseball team's plans for opening weekend, forcing the Tigers to Louisiana, the squad put together an impressive opening weekend with wins over Southern Mississippi and Chicago State. The 2-1 start is a stark contrast to the 2013 season, where Mizzou limped out of the gate to a 0-6 record. Behind contributions from fresh faces and Tiger veterans, the squad will look to build on its early success.
1. Bullpen on Parade
Mizzou used at least four pitchers in all three games on the weekend, and it was the bullpen that dazzled with a strong showing. Tiger starters went 4.2, 4.2, and 4.0 innings, respectively, and the pen shut down the opposition in the later innings. On the weekend, the Mizzou bullpen combined for 11 strikeouts, one walk, two wins, and only two hits allowed in 12.2 innings. Most impressive, the relievers allowed no hits against Southern Miss and held opponents scoreless on the weekend. In fact, relievers had a WHIP of 0.32 over the weekend.
2. Steele Still Strong
First-team All-SEC utility man in 2013, Keaton Steele picked up right where he left off. He recorded two saves during the opening weekend, fanning three and walking one batter over three innings of work. His two saves match his total from a season ago when he was the only player in the nation to lead his team in wins, saves and homers. Steele was named SEC Pitcher of the Week last March after an impressive six-inning appearance against South Carolina, holding the Gamecocks scoreless in Mizzou's first ever SEC win.
3. Offense Strikes Late
Winning two of the three games on their first road trip, the Tigers relied on offense late in the game to push them ahead or pad a lead in both wins. Mizzou rallied for four runs after the fifth inning against the Golden Eagles in the season opener and scored two runs in the eighth inning against Chicago State to put the game out of reach.
4. Segovia Slugging
Shane Segovia struggled at the dish in 2013, battling injuries for most of the season. He started hot this year though, scorching opposing pitchers en route to a .625 batting average with a RBI and three runs scored. He is also slugging .875 in the early running thanks to two doubles. The hot start comes after a strong finish to 2013, as Segovia can now boast a .382 average with seven doubles and 11 RBI over his previous 17 games. He leads all Tigers offensively with seven total bases.
5. Veterans Take the Lead
Plenty of Mizzou veterans contributed to the strong start for the Tigers. Along with Steele and Segovia, catcher Dylan Kelly and 2013 Freshman All-SEC first baseman Josh Lester pitched in during the strong opening weekend. Kelly and Lester both scored two runs, and Kelly also notched two RBI. Kendall Keeton accounted for a RBI and two runs scored, and Jake Ivory slugged in two runners while finishing the weekend batting an even .500. Ryan Phillips, a presence out of the bullpen last season, claimed both victories on the mound for Mizzou.
6. Pitching Locked In
A key for Tiger pitching this season appears to be that the staff is willing to fill up the zone. Mizzou struck out 20 batters on the week against just four walks. The staff emerged from Louisiana with a 2.42 ERA in 26.0 innings pitched, allowing only four extra base hits in 90 at bats.
7. Tiger Debuts
Several Tigers made their collegiate debuts over the weekend, including Zach Lavy, who scored a run and batted two more in. "The Squirrel" Jake Ring started each game in his first ever collegiate road trip, hitting a double and claiming a RBI. Brett Peel made two starts over the weekend, and he was joined by fellow freshmen Jordan Getzelman, Sean Ullrich (redshirt), Jack Klages and Ryan Howard as Tigers who also saw the field for the first time. Andrew Schwaab and Andrew Hohn, both transfers, also saw their first action at Mizzou.
8. Injury Report
The only injury sustained during play was to Peel, a left hand injury. His status for next week's slate has yet to be determined.
9. Who's On Deck
Mizzou hits the road again next weekend to play in a tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C., home of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Tigers will play against the Radford Highlanders Friday morning (11 a.m. CST) before facing Wake Forest on Saturday (3 p.m.) and Cincinnati on Sunday (11 a.m.). Mizzou then heads to the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C., for a pair of games on Monday and Tuesday against the Liberty Flames (1:35 p.m.) and Campbell Camels (11:30 a.m.), respectively.
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