Posted: Feb 23, 2013 5:20 PM
MEMPHIS, TN -- Despite opening a 3-0 lead, the Mizzou baseball team fell at Memphis, 5-3, on Saturday afternoon at FedExPark. The loss drops the Tigers to 0-5 on the season while Memphis moves to 3-3. The Tigers got a good start from sophomore Brett Graves, who allowed just three earned runs (four total) over six innings pitched while striking out five. He was perfect through four innings and retired the first 13 batters he faced, but he struggled in the seventh inning, walking two and allowing a single before getting the hook as Memphis scored three in the frame to gain a 4-3 lead.
Memphis added another run in the bottom of the eighth to complete the comeback as Heith Hatfield earned his first win of the season. In fact, he retired 12 straight Mizzou batters, including eight strikeouts, after allowing a single to the first batter he faced in the sixth. Graves was tagged with the loss despite a great start as he ran out of gas in the seventh. Dylan Kelly led the Tigers at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a run scored in the loss.
The turning point in the game came in the top of the fifth with Mizzou leading 3-0. After Dane Opel singled, Keaton Steele ripped what looked to be an RBI double into left center, but Memphis left fielder Jake Little hauled in an amazing over-the-shoulder catch and doubled off Opel at first, swinging momentum to Memphis.
Mizzou threatened in the first as Belfonte led off the inning with a good two-strike hit and eventually moved to third base on a pair of wild pitches before he was stranded there after a strikeout from Opel and a pop up from Steele. Graves was electric in the first inning, needing just 13 pitches to get through the frame with two strikeouts.
The Tiger offense gave Graves some support in the second as Kelly led off the inning with another two-strike hit, this one down the third base line. Shane Segovia then singled on a 0-1 pitch, setting up a sacrifice bunt by Michael McGraw. Then, with runners on second and third, Memphis starter Erik Schoenrock threw a wild pitch to score Kelly and move Segovia to third. Segovia then scored on an error by Memphis shortstop Ethan Gross, giving Mizzou a 2-0 lead after the top of the second.
Graves was electric again in the bottom of the second, needing just 12 pitches to retire the side as he amassed just 25 pitches through the first two innings. The Tigers added another run in the top of the third. Kendall Keeton hit a one-out double to left center, hustling out of the box and beating the throw and then with two outs, Steele hit a single through the left side to plate the run, giving Mizzou a 3-0 lead.
Graves continued to mow down the Memphis order, getting them 1-2-3 in both the third and fourth inning as he needed just 43 pitches to get through four innings. After Graves retired the first 13 batters he faces, Memphis finally got to Graves in the fifth, breaking up a perfect outing at that point. An error by Steele on a hard-hit ball gave Memphis its first base runner and then a double by Keaton Aldridge put runners on second and third with one out. A single then scored a run, but Graves got a fielder's choice out at the plate and then a strikeout of Ethan Gross to get out of the inning. Through five, he had allowed just two hits and one unearned run.
Graves got Memphis to go 1-2-3 in the sixth but then walked two and gave up a hit to load the bases with one out in the seventh, ending his day. Jace James came on in relief with one out and the bases loaded and he walked in a run to pull Memphis within one. Then an error at first by McGraw scored another run and a single by Ethan Gross gave Memphis its first lead of the game at 4-3. Mizzou issued three walks and an error in the three-run Memphis seventh.
Meanwhile, Memphis' Hatfield sat down nine straight Mizzou batters, striking out six, and Memphis took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. Memphis tacked on an insurance run in the eighth and then Hatfield set down the Tigers in order in the ninth to seal the win.
The series finale will be contested at 1 p.m. tomorrow at FedExPark.