April 8, 2013
The Extra Nine is a weekly blog by MUTigers.com correspondent Brandon Weiss
It was a historic week for Mizzou baseball, as the Tigers won their first-ever SEC series, 2-1, at the University of Georgia over the weekend. After falling to Illinois Tuesday in Busch Stadium 6-2, Mizzou took advantage of a 4-0 win on Friday, then dug themselves into a hole early on Saturday and Sunday. The comeback bid fell short in the second game of the series, as the Tigers fell 6-5, but the team was successful in the series finale as they erased a 5-0 deficit en route to an 8-5 win.
1 - Steele Does it All
Keaton Steele had his best weekend yet as a Missouri Tiger, hitting .535 in the three-game set against the Bulldogs while scoring three times and driving in three runs in Mizzou's series victory. His OPS on the weekend was an unbelievable 1.571. On the mound, Steele earned the win on Sunday by pitching 7.1 innings, striking out a career-high nine batters and allowing just four hits before retiring the final 15 batters he faced.
2 - Opel On Fire
Other than Steele, no Tiger is hotter right now than Dane Opel. The senior outfielder went 3-for-9 at the plate against Georgia with five walks, extending his on-base streak to 21 games. He drove in three runs in Sunday's contest, a three-run triple that proved to be the game-winning hit, and he scored five times in the series win. In the field, Opel pushed his outfield assist total to 10, leading the team.
3 - Zastryzny Untouchable
4 - Homecoming for Kelly
Rob Zastryzny has strung out quality start after quality start since SEC play began, and he notched a complete game shutout in the Friday contest against the Bulldogs, a 4-0 win for the Tigers. Zastryzny allowed seven hits while going the distance, fanning four and issuing no free passes.
The Roswell, Ga., native returned to his home state, and Dylan Kelly
made the most of his trip. The catcher went 6-for-15 at the dish, driving in two runs and scoring twice in the series. He was responsible defensively for slowing an aggressive base-running team in Georgia, and he gunned down one out of four runners who tried to swipe a base against the Tigers.
5 - Tigers Bullpen Tough
Over the weekend, the Tigers out of the bullpen allowed only two earned runs and eight hits after relieving Brett Graves and Alec Rash early in the Saturday and Sunday contests. The pen accounted for 12 innings over the series' final two contests, and the group collectively fanned 14 batters. Steele registered nine of the strikeouts, while Jake Walsh claimed one victim and Breckin Williams sat down four Bulldogs.
6 - Slow Starts, Comeback Kids
The Tigers got off to uncharacteristically slow starts on Saturday and Sunday, facing 4-0 and 5-0 holes, respectively, in the weekend's final two games. Mizzou pushed back both games, though, as the Tigers scored four unanswered runs Saturday as the comeback bid fell short and eight straight runs in Sunday's win. The Tigers have scored the last run in each of their last four games, going back to the series against No. 2 LSU.
7 - SEC Standings Outlook
Now with four SEC series in the books, Mizzou finds itself at 4-8 in league play, good for fourth place in the East and tied with Ole Miss for 11th overall in the nation's premier baseball conference. Mizzou's remaining schedule is still strong, as the Tigers take on Vanderbilt (29-4, 11-1) and Kentucky (22-9, 6-6), both in last week's top 10, as well as Florida (15-18, 5-7), Texas A&M (20-13, 6-6) and Auburn (19-13, 3-9). The top 12 teams make the trip to Hoover, Ala., to take part in the postseason conference tournament.
8 - Injury Report
Mizzou has a clean bill of health heading into this week's action.
9 - What's Next
It's another big week for Mizzou, as the Tigers head to Springfield, Mo., on Tuesday for a date with the Missouri State Bears before taking their talents to Nashville, Tenn., to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Vanderbilt is one of the top teams in the country, ranked in the top three in every major poll.