Story by Gary Cotton
Photo by Kevin Donnellan
Dane Opel’s leg was feeling pretty good Tuesday. He’s been trying some alternative medicine to help treat a chronic quad injury, but you couldn’t tell it by the power hitter’s two-run triple in the sixth, part of Missouri’s 14-4 rout of Nebraska-Omaha.
“I did some crazy acupuncture on it today,” Opel said. “It was pretty weird, but it feels good.”
Missouri fans might want Opel to make the needles a routine.
Freshman Brett Graves made his first start for Missouri Tuesday, pitching four scoreless innings.
Opel’s hit was his second big play of the game, which followed a first inning home run that put Missouri up by three. Missouri (5-5) never looked back as the offense adjusted to seven Nebraska-Omaha (2-10) pitchers. The Mavericks couldn’t slow the Tigers and gave up 14 hits.
“We hit well the first inning, then they really started pitching backwards,” Opel said. “Coach just told us to look at those counts, to look for breaking balls and fastball counts. We did a good job adjusting to that.”
Mavericks pitcher Josh Bullock’s two consecutive walks led to a three-run play when Missouri’s Connor Mach lobbed the ball into left field. Nebraska-Omaha outfielder Caleb Palensky tried to catch the ball, but a gust of wind carried the ball just out of his reach.
Coach Tim Jamieson tossed in some fresh faces on the mound after solid pitching from starter Brett Graves, a freshman and a St. Louis Cardinals MLB draft pick. He gave up four hits in a rocky first inning before striking out Beau Suponchick to end the inning.
“I had a little nerves going the first inning,” Graves said. “I was pretty pumped up the first start. After I got out of it, the team really fed off of it.”
Jamieson said the team’s decisive offensive play during the past few games has given the young bullpen a chance to gain some experience.
“That’s the way you’re supposed to do it; get those guys a chance to play,” Jamieson said. “You hope every game turns out that way. We’ve been fortunate the last three games to be able to do that.”
Jamieson said freshman Brandon Platts will get a start this weekend against the Charlotte 49ers. Missouri’s fiery offence might relieve Platts of some pressure when he faces Charlotte. Opel said the team is looking to avenge its 3-1 series loss against the 49ers last year.
“Coach is getting us all excited for it,” Opel said. “They put it to us last year, and we’re looking to return the favor.”
Missouri starts its home stand against Charlotte Friday at 6 p.m. The series continues with two games on Saturday and one on Sunday.