Freshman Alec Rash was a bright spot for Mizzou during opening weekend.
Feb. 17, 2013
- By Brandon Weiss, Mizzou Correspondent
Now that opening day is behind us, it is time to look back at the week that was in Mizzou baseball. Every week, MUTigers.com correspondent Brandon Weiss will take a look at all of the happening for Mizzou baseball, starting this week with the Tigers' season-opening series at No. 23 Southern Miss.
The Tigers' first weekend as a SEC ballclub didn't go as planned, as the No. 23 Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles took each contest of the three-game set, 5-2, 5-3, and 6-1, respectively. Despite the 0-3 record, there are plenty of positives that can be taken from the opening set.
1 - Starters Look Strong
The starting pitchers turned in an impressive performance on opening weekend, holding Southern Miss to just a .196 average, allowing only 11 hits throughout the series. Friday night starter Rob Zastryzny was the only Tiger starter tagged for multiple runs, surrendering three earned in an uncharacteristic performance that featured four walks and two batters hit by pitches. Newcomer Jace James threw a gem on Sunday, lifted after five innings of shutout ball in which he allowed just three hits, striking out one. Saturday starter Brett Graves was charged with one earned run (two total), and he registered five strikeouts in his five innings of work. In all, the three Tiger starters had a 2.38 ERA on the weekend. Graves and James checked in a combined 0.90 ERA for the week.
2 - New Faces In the Pen
The highest-drafted high school player to go to college made his Mizzou debut on Friday, as Alec Rash took the mound in the eighth inning of the opener. He wasted no time registering his first strikeout as a Tiger, fanning the first batter he faced. The freshman flaunts a "plus" fastball and is working to improve command of his pitches. Freshman Ryan Phillips also took the mound for the first time as a Tiger, and the Columbia native threw a scoreless frame, allowing just one hit to the three batters he faced.
3 - Solid Up The Middle
The unexpected duo of Kendall Keeton and Josh Lester up the middle appeared in two games, and the players each performed well on the weekend. Lester, a freshman from Columbus, Ga., got his first collegiate start on Saturday and tallied two hits as well as four putouts and an assist in the field. Keeton started all three games in the series and led the Tigers at the plate in the first game by going 3-for-3 with a run and a RBI while reaching base in all four plate appearances. He finished the series with a .300 average, a double, and tied for second on the team with a .375 on base percentage.
4 - Dane Starts Fast
In 2012, Dane Opel came out of the gate on fire, notching two homers in the season-opening series at now-conference-foe Auburn. In 2013, Opel didn't connect for any home runs in the first three games but he returns to Columbia with the team lead in OBP (.500) and tied for the team lead in RBI, claiming two of the team's total of five. He is third on the team in OPS after opening weekend, trailing only Sal Belfonte and Keeton.
5 - Outfield Depth
Mizzou knew that outfield depth would not be an issue coming into the season, and six different outfielders got starts in the set in Hattiesburg. Belfonte has been arguably the Tigers' most dangerous hitter thus far, hitting at a .375 clip including a double and a .500 slugging percentage. Logan Pearson, Brannon Champagne, Scott Sommerfeld and Case Munson all saw playing time in the first week, and the competition for starts and plate appearances will likely continue as the season progresses.
6 - Leading Late
Despite the 0-3 record, a few breaks and Missouri may have left Hattiesburg at 2-1. The Tigers held late leads in each of the final two games against the Golden Eagles, leading 3-2 in the seventh frame in game two and 1-0 in the eighth in game three. One swing of the bat led to the Missouri downfall in the second game, as a three-run bomb off the bat of USM's Mason Robbins put the Golden Eagles ahead for good with a 5-3 lead. In the final game of the series, a six-run eighth that started with back-to-back doubles took the Tigers from up by one to down five with just three outs remaining.
7 - Breaking in the Bats
After out-hitting Southern Miss in game one, Mizzou mustered just nine hits over the final two games of the series, just three hits in the third game. Two of the hits in the weekend's last game came from Belfonte, and catcher Jake Ivory had the only other hit for Missouri in the contest. All in all, the Tigers put just seven runners on base in the third game, stranding four.
8 - Injury Update
Shane Segovia, Brandon Platts, and Eric Anderson were all unable to play in the season's first set while rehabbing injuries. Segovia will likely return for next weekend's set at Memphis, and Anderson is listed as probable to make his 2013 debut next week as well. Anderson, who pitched in the Cape Cod League and for Team USA in 2011, is coming off Tommy John surgery that he underwent last May. Dillon Everett sustained a hand injury in the season opener, and he is listed as day-to-day.
9 - Looking Ahead
The next opponent for Missouri is the Memphis Tigers. The weekend set is a return trip from last year's series in Columbia, where Memphis took two of three games. Zastryzny and Graves both lost their starts against the Tigers last season, combining to allow nine earned runs in 7.2 innings of work. John Miles has fared the best against Memphis, posting a career 1.29 ERA against the Tigers from Conference USA. Officially, Memphis leads the all-time series 6-5, with two victories coming due to games that Missouri had to forfeit afterwards in 1959.
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