HOOVER, AL-- The Missouri Tigers began their quest to defeat Vanderbilt for the first time since joining the conference in the second game of Wednesday's slate of SEC baseball tournament games. With a less-than-stellar 0-9 record against the Commodores, coach Tim Jamieson said Tuesday on the SEC Network: "We're due. That's the way we have to look at it."
Brett Peel and Jake Ring, Mizzou's first two hitters, were walked by hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Ferguson to begin the game, and a double steal put Missouri in striking distance. Two hits later, the Tigers took an early 2-0 lead. They were due, I guess.
For Mizzou, Vanderbilt was the formidable opponent that could possibly put them over the top and into the regional for the first time since they joined the SEC. Whether they could do it was up for debate, but, Jamieson knew the importance of this week, saying, "We feel like we have to make some noise down here. We aren't going to assume anything."
Jamieson relaxed ,I'm sure, as well as many of the Tiger faithful after the opening half inning, but Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson had other ideas. Stepping into the box with a man on first, Swanson unleashed on a fastball and drove it as far as I've seen here in Hoover since the bats were altered. Scoring two, Vanderbilt was right back in this game.
On SEC Network, @KendallRogersD1 says Mizzou probably needs one more win to make an NCAA regional. "Missouri is dangerous." Loves the staff— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) May 19, 2015
Those two walks in the first were indicative of what the day was going to be like for Ferguson, and although he hit mid-90s on the gun for the majority of his outing, strikes were hard to come by, and he was pulled in the second.
The next three innings went quietly as the pitching stole the show, but Mizzou again made noise in the fifth with five hits and a four-run inning that extended their lead to a commanding 6-2.
Ironically enough, Swanson said prior the this tournament: "The ball doesn't really fly there. It's kind of like a green ocean in the outfield. You really have to concentrate on hitting the ball on a line, and you can't rely on hitting a home run or getting that big hit."
In the seventh, a guy who hit a home run in the College World Series, Jeren Kendall, hit a two-run bomb to right for Vanderbilt, cutting the lead to 6-4. And in the eighth, Swanson was up to bat with a no men on and he connected again, sending it to left -- again -- for his second home run of the day. With the Mizzou lead cut to 6-5, Vanderbilt and Swanson himself proved his theory about Hoover Met wrong.
With two outs in the 9th, Jamieson and the Missouri Tigers had to feel good with the one-run lead. That was until Mizzou's center fielder booted one in center and allowed Vanderbilt's Nolan Rogers to score standing up to send the game to extras.
Impressive comeback by Vandy. 2-out walk & basehit w/ a fortunate bounce later, we are tied. Who doesn't love extra innings on 4 game days?— Mark Etheridge (@ethmark) May 20, 2015
After a scorless top half for Mizzou, the Commodores were up yet again, now with a chance to win the game. With zero outs, Rhett Wiseman was up. With the wind blowing, with two balls and two strikes, he got a hold of a fastball. As the ball traveled, Vanderbilt fans got louder. A last ditch effort by the Missouri centerfielder didn't come to fruition, and the ball flew past the fence leading to a Vanderbilt victory, 7-6.
For Missouri, you wonder how sick they must be. For Vanderbilt, you wonder how they did it. For the fans, you're jealous with how great a baseball game that was.
Vanderbilt next faces Texas A&M on Thursday in the winners' bracket, with a chance at a one-day bye before the semifinals. Missouri will take on Alabama on Thursday in an elimination game.