Brett Graves has dominated in four starts this season.
March 10, 2014
COLUMBIA, Mo.- It took four weeks, but there was finally baseball in Taylor Stadium last weekend. Mizzou played its first series of the season, a three-game set against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. A familiar opponent, the Tigers beat USM 4-2 in the season opener in a neutral site contest. Mizzou got the better of Southern Miss again in Columbia, winning the first two games of the weekend series and taking the season series three games to one.
1. Opposing hitters don't dig Graves
Junior righty Brett Graves has dominated so far this season en route to a 2-1 record. The top starter for Mizzou flaunts a 0.98 ERA, and opposing hitters are batting just .144 against him. In fact, Graves hasn't allowed an extra base hit since his first inning of the season, surrendering only one in the first inning of the Tigers' first game against Southern Miss, played in Louisiana. He hasn't allowed an extra-base hit in 27.0 consecutive innings.
2. Tigers limit free passes
A clear emphasis from pitching coach Matt Hobbs this year has been throwing strikes. Again, Graves is a strong example of this approach of filling the zone: he has struck out 23 batters and issued only four walks. The staff as a whole has sat down 93 hitters and walked only 25. Tiger pitching this past weekend was especially dominant, boasting 24 Ks to only four free passes.
3. Anderson sets season marks
Fifth-year senior Eric Anderson had a strong showing in the series finale against Southern Miss. The righty went four innings, a season best, and he struck out four batters in his time on the bump. The strikeout mark was Anderson's best since the 2012 season, and the four innings represented Anderson's longest outing since he went seven innings against Kentucky last year.
4. Fast starts lead to wins
In Missouri's two wins over the weekend, the Tigers scored early to jump on top of the Golden Eagles. In Friday's contest, the two Mizzou runs in the first inning proved to be enough to win as Graves was dominant for all eight innings on the mound. The Tigers plated five runs in the first two frames on Saturday, pouncing on opposing pitching to claim a safe cushion early.
5. Keeton lives on base
If Mizzou has a game, Kendall Keeton gets on base. The senior first baseman has reached safely in every game Mizzou has played this season, with the streak now at 13 games. The Columbia, Tenn., native shares the team lead in runs, with seven. Among the two players he is tied with in the run column, Anderson and Lester batted first and second for Mizzou in each game last weekend, with Keeton batting third.
6. Steele slams the door
Keaton Steele's ability to close out games has been invaluable for the Tigers this season. The senior has four saves in the Tigers' six wins this season, needing only two more saves to match last season's team total. Steele has yet to allow a run or an extra base hit this year, striking out 10 batters and walking only three. The closer has allowed only one run in eight appearances out of the bullpen this season.
7. Fans set attendance record
Mizzou fans set an attendance record for a home opener, boasting four-figure attendance at the first game in Columbia for the first time in program history. The crowd witnessed Graves limit USM to one run and Mizzou claim a 4-1 victory in the Tigers' first home contest of the 2014 season.
8. Injury report
Among injured players, Brett Peel is working his way back on to the playing field. The freshman infielder broke his hamate bone in the second game of the season and appeared as a pinch runner in Sunday's (March 9) contest against Southern Miss. He will be available as a pinch runner again this week but has not yet been cleared to bat. Shane Segovia and Logan Pearson are both uncertain to return this weekend, though they may be available. Segovia is nursing a strained oblique while Pearson is working his way back from a hamstring injury.
9. Who's on deck
It's a big week for Mizzou baseball, as the Tigers play two midweek games against Alcorn State (1-15) before opening SEC play against Tennessee (14-1) on the weekend. Mizzou is slated to play the Braves on Tuesday (March 11) at 6 p.m. and Wednesday (March 12) at 4 p.m., then it opens against the Volunteers Friday (March 14) at 6 p.m. The final two legs against the first SEC foe of the season are Saturday (March 15) at 2 p.m. and Sunday (March 16) at 1 p.m.
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