By Kevin Donnellan
Missouri won both of Saturday’s games against Charlotte to clinch a series win and extend its winning streak to six. Strong relief pitching from Jake Walsh was a decisive factor in the double header, earning saves in both games.
Even though they won 5-3 and 3-2, Saturday’s games were tougher for the Tigers. The Charlotte 49ers tightened up on defensive errors that had caused them to lose against MU on Friday.
“(Charlotte) played better defense today, although they had a couple of (errors),” coach Tim Jamieson said. “I think we played around the same.”
Sophomore Rob Zastryzny started on the mound for the opening game, giving up five hits over his six innings. By the time he retired, the Tigers had established a 4-2 lead. Freshman John Miles had a rocky performance before Jake Walsh came in to steady the ship. He repeated the trick in the second game, allowing no hits off eight pitches.
“When I go in, no ones going to score on me,” Walsh said. “That’s how I feel every time I go out. I just got to keep that going. I’d say my fast ball was pretty dominating, no ones going to hit that.”
The Tigers had some defensive issues earlier in the game, but Charlotte failed to capitalize on a couple of Missouri errors. The Tigers confidence grew throughout the game, and the team began to display some solid fielding. Brannon Champagne made a great defensive play with a diving catch of a fly ball hit by Justin Seagar.
Three familiar names anchored Missouri’s offense. In the first game senior Conner Mach scored two runs in the fourth and fifth while hits from both Dane Opel and Eric Garcia in the sixth and seventh respectively helped Missouri keep the 49ers at bay.
The second game didn’t come alive until Dane Opel scored his fourth home run of the season and second this week in the sixth inning. Missouri took a 3-2 lead, a lead that looked precarious as Charlotte loaded the bases in the seventh.
That was the cue for Dusty Ross to take the mound, replacing Blake Holovach, despite 58 strikes from 92-pitch performance. Jamieson felt it was the right time to pull him in.
“He pitched into the seventh inning; that’s as far as he’d been,” Jamieson said. “He looked to us like he was losing a little bit. So we went with the right hander (Ross).”
The move worked and Missouri held on to win the game.
“(There’s) a lot of energy … a lot more confidence on the bench,” said Holovach.
With the Big 12 opener less than two weeks away, Jamieson believes there is some more experimenting to do with the starting line up.
“We still have a couple of guys we need to get out there,” Jamieson said. “We still need to have as much depth as we can.”
Missouri will continue its home stand against Charlotte on Sunday. The game has been moved to 3 p.m., but Sunday’s weather forecast calls for rain.