Opel's Three-Run Triple in the Ninth Clinches Series at UGA
ATHENS, Ga. - Senior Dane Opel (Edwardsville, Ill.) hit a three-run, go-ahead triple in the top of the ninth and Keaton Steele (St. Joseph, Mo.) retired the last 15 batters he faced while earning his third win of the season as Mizzou rallied to defeat Georgia, 8-5, on Sunday afternoon (April 7) at Foley Field. Steele was brilliant in relief of Tiger starter Alec Rash (Adel, Iowa), going a career-best 7.1 innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits while striking out nine with no walks. Steele also went 3-for-5 at the dish in the win as he did it all for the Tigers. He is now 3-1 for the Tigers on the mound this season.
Mizzou trailed 5-4 heading into the ninth despite getting runners on in each of the first eight innings as five double plays haunted Mizzou heading into the final frame. In fact, Georgia led 5-0 after scoring four runs off of Rash in 1.1 innings and another off of Steele in the third. But Steele did his best to keep Mizzou in the game, throwing four perfect innings from the fifth through the eighth, allowing Mizzou to chip away at the lead until Opel's go-ahead hit. Steele then came on and got a pop up and two strikeouts in the ninth as he retired the final 15 UGA batters. Georgia reliever Blake Dietrich was tagged with the loss on Sunday after allowing three runs in 0.1 innings, his first of the season.
Mizzou got two men aboard in the first inning on an Opel walk and a Steele single, but a strike-out, throw-out double play on a botched hit-and-run got UGA out of the jam. The inning extended some streaks for Mizzou as Opel's walk extended his on-base streak to 21 consecutive games while Steele's hit gave him hits in eight straight.
Georgia got on the board in the first as a pair of infield choppers turned into hits off of Rash, then an error on a double-play ball by Dillon Everett (Phoenix, Ariz.) plated a run and single by Jared Walsh plated another run. Opel helped Rash get out of the jam as he tallied a pair of outfield assists, one on the error by Everett, gunning down the runner at second and then another on the hit by Walsh as Opel gunned him trying to trot into second for a double.
Georgia got to Rash again in the bottom of the second, again using a couple infield hits to score some runs as UGA took a 4-0 lead as Rash's day was done, allowing seven hits in just 1.1 innings. Georgia then added another in the third on a sacrifice fly from Brett DeLoach to go on top 5-0. That was the only blemish off of Steele on the day.
But Mizzou rallied in the top of the fourth with RBI singles from Dylan Kelly (Roswell, Ga.) and Kendall Keeton (Columbia, Tenn.) along with an RBI fielder's choice by Jake Ivory (St. Charles, Mo.), making it 5-3. The inning was once again started by the hot hitting of Opel and Steele, who tallied a single and double, respectively, to kick-start the inning.
Steele continued to keep the Tigers in the game from there, pitching very well, retiring six of seven batters in the fourth and fifth innings. He then retired three more Bulldog batter consecutively in the bottom of the sixth, but Mizzou's offense remained stagnant from there. Through the seventh, Steele has retired nine in a row and the Tigers threatened to score in many of the later innings, finally breaking through in the top of the eighth with an RBI single from Keeton, bringing the Tigers to within one at 5-4.
And then Mizzou finally broke through in a big way in the ninth, scoring four runs, three of which came on Opel's bases-loaded triple to the right field corner. Scott Sommerfeld (Manchester, Mo.) led off the frame with a single off the third baseman and then Everett reached base on an error on sacrifice bunt attempt and that put runners on the corners for Munson who walked to load the bases for Opel. He then ripped the triple into the right field corner to give Mizzou its first lead of the day. Opel was then driven in on a sacrifice fly by Kelly for their eighth run of the day.
Steele came back on in the ninth and got a pop up and struck out the last two batters he faced to seal the win for Mizzou, clinching the series. It was also the Tigers first win this season when leading after eight innings.
Mizzou will continue its season-long road trip with a game at Missouri State on Tuesday.
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