Eager for turnaround, Mizzou baseball sets tone in win over Texas A&M

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri starter Seth Halvorsen pitched a career-best seven innings Friday night against Texas A&M, allowing just two runs on two hits while striking out 10.

How eager was Missouri baseball to get a victory Friday night? 

After an eight-run, late-game collapse against Kansas on Tuesday and a 16-2 loss to Texas A&M on Thursday, the Tigers faced the Aggies again, less than 24 hours after their last shellacking.

The second game of a trio of Southeastern Conference contests between the teams — which switched to their new league from the Big 12 Conference in the same offseason — marked the halfway point of Missouri's 2021 campaign.

Tigers head coach Steve Bieser woke up Friday determined to not let another opportunity pass his team by without reward.

The team met Friday for lunch, a combination of Jimmy John's, Chick-Fil-A and Bieser's meal of tuna on Good Friday. That menu may need to be duplicated as the Tigers bested the Aggies 8-2 at Taylor Stadium to snap a five-game losing streak. 

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The Tigers moved to 9-17 overall and 2-6 in the SEC entering Saturday's series finale.

"I brought them in and spent about 30 minutes of just talking and putting everything into perspective, and talk's cheap," Bieser said after Friday's victory. "But when they go out and they respond to the talk, it really felt good.

"Last night, I felt like A&M really picked a fight with our guys. And they had a lot of bantering from their bench and kind of saying some things that really is not ball-like. But it was good to see our guys come back out and respond today. And to some degree, I don't allow that stuff coming from our team. They got woken up last night and we're trying to respect the game and respect the opponent, and they're saying things.

"I just kind of turned them loose tonight and they had a lot of fun."

Bieser framed the dialogue between dugouts and on the field as two high-level college teams having fun with no malicious intent. 

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Missouri knew it needed to get back on track, so it yapped away.

In particular, the Tigers' starting pitcher on Friday, Seth Halvorsen, was animated throughout his seven innings on the mound.

"There's always chatter a little bit. I was just having energy," Halvorsen said. "Nothing crazy was said, just kind of showing some emotion there just to get it going, get the energy going. And I think the dugout helped with that, too."

The sophomore right-hander faced 27 batters and allowed only two hits. He finished with 10 strikeouts.

Bieser called Halvorsen's outing "outstanding."

"When I talk about picking a fight, that's how he wants to compete," Bieser said of Halvorsen. "I don't know if you caught him earlier in the game, but he's looking in their dugout and kind of letting them know that he's in charge. I sort of took that away from him earlier in the year. I said, 'Man, you got to be careful with that.' But tonight, he had everything going and he was backing up everything that he was doing on the mound."

Bieser said at one point, Halvorsen's fastball hit triple digits on the radar gun and consistently hit around 96 mph.

"That's dominant stuff. It's been hard, but I know that we have to stick with that young man," Bieser said of Halvorsen as his mid-series starter improved to 3-1 on the year. "He's so young to pitching. ... We have to stick with him. There's going to be some good days like this and there's probably going to be some tougher days. But you hope that this is what really can get him turned around and just being more consistent with his strike-throwing effort and attacking and staying away from those big innings.

"And he did a great job with that tonight."

Missouri started the game the right way with Mark Vierling launching a lead-off home run over the left field wall.

Former Helias star Trevor Austin followed with his first collegiate home run in the third.

"It felt really good. It was a fastball. I was definitely looking for a fastball," Austin said of his homer to left-center. "I've been struggling with the off-speed lately. Getting that fastball was nice and I barreled it up, but the wind definitely helped it go out."

As the back half of Missouri's schedule commences, Friday's victory could be a turning point for the Tigers to get into higher ground in the SEC standings. 

There are plenty more challenges ahead such as series against Florida, Georgia and Mississippi State.

Yet the Tigers hope the worst stretch of their season is behind them.

Now, they focus on moving forward with confidence. 

"There's just a lot of fire in the dugout for sure because of the past week," Halvorsen said. "The last few games weren't our best. But this is new game. I think that was just kind of the tone of the game from the start."

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

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