Posted: Feb 16, 2013 5:48 PM
Updated: Feb 17, 2013 12:01 PM
HATTIESBURG, MS -- Mizzou sophomore Brett Graves put together a solid start in his first of the season but the Mizzou baseball team dropped a 5-3 decision to No. 23 Southern Miss on Saturday afternoon at Pete Taylor Park. Mizzou led throughout until a three-run homer off of Tiger reliever Ryan Yuengel by Mason Robbins gave USM a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Graves was very good in his first start since May 13 last season as he went 5.0 innings, allowing just four hits, two runs (only one earned) with five strikeouts and just one walk. The loss drops the Tigers to 0-2 on the season.
Yuengel took the loss for the Tigers after allowing the three-run shot to Robbins while Cameron Giannini earned the win for the Eagles. At the plate, Gavin Stark was a bright spot for the Tigers as he went 2-for-3 while reaching base in three of his four plate appearances. Dane Opel and Keaton Steele tallied RBIs for the Tigers and Case Munson (St. Charles, Mo.) scored a pair of runs for Mizzou in the loss.
Mizzou got on the board early as it drew blood in the first inning. Munson opened the game by reaching on an error from USM's Isaac Rodriguez but USM starter Jake Drehoff then retired the next two Tiger batters before plunking Opel to put a pair of runners on for Steele. He deposited a 1-0 pitch through the left side to score Munson to put the Tigers on top 1-0.
Graves took to the mound in the bottom of the first and looked electric, tallying a pair of strikeout while getting through the side on 12 pitches, 10 of which went for strikes. In the top of the second inning, Stark crushed a two-out double off the wall in left that nearly got out of the park if not for a 25 mile-per-hour head wind. Graves was filthy again in the second, retiring the side in order, including his third strikeout of the game.
Mizzou nearly got on the board again in the fourth as Stark tallied his second hit of the day on the 10th pitch of his at-bat, but Josh Lester was thrown out at the dish after trying to score from first, sending the game to the bottom of the fourth with Mizzou on top, 1-0. Graves got USM 1-2-3 again in the fourth thanks in large part to a great running grab on the track by Logan Pearson for the third out.
Mizzou added to its lead in the top of the fifth inning with an RBI single from Opel, scoring Munson. But Mizzou failed to tack on more as they left runners stranded on the corners after a pop-up from Steele and a fly out by Dylan Kelly. Southern Miss then got that run back in the bottom of the fifth. Graves appeared to be breezing through the frame until a pair of errors put two men on for USM catcher Chase Fowler, who tapped a hopper back up the middle to plate an unearned run. Graves got out of the jam, allowing just the unearned run as he got Travis Creel to ground out to third with the bases loaded and two outs.
But the Tigers responded in the top of the sixth inning with another run. Lester tallied his second hit of the day with one out in the inning and then Stark earned a full-count walk as he reached base for the second time on the day. That brought in Munson who ripped a ball to third that got through the legs of Bradley Rooney, allowing Lester to score from second.
USM again got to Graves in the sixth, tallying a hit and a walk to put two aboard with one no one out. That ended Graves' day in favor of Ryan Yuengel who came into clean it up. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, designated hitter Tim Lynch hit a sacrifice fly to plate the run, cutting Mizzou's lead to 3-2. But Yuengel pitched out of the jam, sending the game to the seventh with Mizzou on top, 3-2.
Yuengel retired the first batter he saw in the seventh, then hit nine-hole hitter Fowler to put a runner on. Mizzou nearly turned a 4-6-3 double play but it was just late at first. Then Yuengel walked two-hole hitter Creel and that brought in Mason Robbins who ripped a three-run bomb to right field, giving USM a 5-3 lead. That was all they needed to close it out as Mizzou's last nine batters were retired in order.
Game three of the series will be Sunday at 1 p.m. in Hattiesburg.