Mizzou baseball shut down by top-ranked Vanderbilt's Jack Leiter

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune

Vanderbilt's Jack Leiter didn't quite match the feat set by Johnny Vander Meer, but he did all he could.

Coming off a no-hitter against South Carolina last Saturday where the Commodores right-handed pitcher allowed an opening walk and no other base runner, Leiter had nearly an equal performance Friday night against Missouri. 

Leiter finished with 10 strikeouts on 101 pitches in seven no-hit innings before being pulled from the game. That brings his streak to 16 consecutive no-hit innings.

No. 1 Vanderbilt was impressive all-around, downing the Tigers 11-3 at Taylor Stadium. 

Missouri's Mark Vierling (9) swings at a pitch during a game against Vanderbilt on Friday night at Taylor Stadium.

Vander Meer is the only pitcher in MLB history to pitch no-hitters in back-to-back starts, doing so in a five-day stretch in June 1938 for the Cincinnati Reds against the Boston Bees.

Leiter's next probable start is at LSU next weekend, where he'll look to keep those Tigers without a hit as well.  

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Missouri falls to 8-14 and 1-4 in the Southeastern Conference with the loss. The Commodores improve to 18-3 and 4-1 in league play. 

"To see what he did last week, and we're going off his film from last week, and then to see that he comes in and he repeats the exact same thing against us," Missouri head coach Steve Bieser said of Leiter. "When the opponent knows that you're throwing a fastball and the opponent can't do anything with it, you know that there's something special with that fastball. So he was able to sit there and dominate us with fastballs, and and we're not the only ones that he's been able to do that to."

Vanderbilt's Jack Leiter delivers a pitch against Missouri on Friday night at Taylor Stadium.

Columbia native and former Battle standout Tre Morris singled to right with two outs in the ninth inning to break up the Commodores' combined no-hitter attempt. 

Two batters later, pinch-hitter Torin Montgomery homered into the Tigers' bullpen in left field to bring home Missouri's only runs of the game. 

Yet Missouri's comeback never gained traction thanks to the near-perfection on the mound from Leiter. 

A pitch count and short rest was the reason given by Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin for pulling Leiter at the end of the seventh. 

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Leiter, who was the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft coming into the season, has given up no hits, four walks and struck out 28 against the last 54 batters he's faced. 

The Commodore sophomore record improved to 6-0, while his ERA dropped to 0.25. 

"It feels pretty normal, honestly," Leiter said. "We have another game tomorrow, get up for breakfast and do the same thing, and probably do some homework, too. So I'd say it feels kind of normal and kind of start thinking how I'm going to prepare for next week."

Leiter's father, 19-year MLB veteran Al Leiter, pitched a no-hitter himself on May 11, 1996, for the then-Florida Marlins. 

"I think he'll definitely be happy. I'm sure I have some texts waiting from him," Jack Leiter said about his dad. "And I'll probably call him when I get back (to the hotel). And I mean, it'll probably be the same as other days really. 

"This was only the second start this year that he missed. He wasn't there in person. So he was probably watching from home and maybe he was still charting like he does when he's at the game."

Leiter got ahead of hitters all night because of how he used his fastball, for which Missouri's batters had trouble handling the velocity. 

Bieser compared the challenge to hitting Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera's cutter. 

The Tigers' coach and Rivera faced each other throughout their minor league careers and when Bieser played for the Mets against the Yankees during one of the first iterations of interleague play.

"I faced Rivera and I knew it was coming. I still couldn't hit it," Bieser said of Rivera's cutter. "So there's some guys that just have some really good stuff and you have to respect it and trust that's what's going to be there.

"And I think even though we knew that (Leiter) was coming at us with fastballs, I think a lot of our hitters still had in the back of their minds, 'Well, what if he throws the breaking ball?' And that's what makes him successful."

After facing consensus top draft prospect Kumar Rocker on Thursday and Leiter, Bieser joked "it's all downhill from here" after battling what he considers two of the best pitchers in college baseball on consecutive nights. 

Despite top-ranked Vanderbilt clinching the series Friday, the Tigers' late offensive breakthrough did give them some confidence, at least.

"It definitely is a positive because they got a no-hitter on the line and they're throwing a guy (Nelson Berkwich) that they feel like can secure that no-hitter for them. He's a younger kid, but he's got really good stuff," Bieser said. "And to see our guys being able to not give in, not wanting to be part of a no-hitter and Tre Morris coming through with that big hit and then seeing Torin jump on a pitch there after we got a little break there on a ground ball.

"I'm proud of that we didn't shut it down, that we went out there and finished that last inning. That's what we talk about is playing nine full innings."

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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