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April 30, 2011

Offensive explosion leads Tigers over A&M

There wasn't much Matt Stites could offer for an explanation.

The junior pitcher had just watched his team's offense explode out of the blue for the second straight game. Friday night, it was a seven-run outburst in the seventh inning.

On Saturday it was a nine-run sixth that left Texas A&M reeling.

It was a welcome (if perplexing) development for Stites.

"Don't know where that came from, but I'm really happy it came, though," Stites said.

Missouri rode its offensive outburst to a 9-1 win over No. 6 Texas A&M. The Tigers (19-24, 6-10 Big 12) guaranteed themselves a second consecutive conference series win as Stites went eight innings and struck out eight to improve to 3-3.

Texas A&M pitcher Michael Wacha came into the game with an ERA in the top five of the Big 12 (1.64) and mostly breezed through the first five innings. But, trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Missouri's offense awoke.

After getting the first two runners on, sophomore Blake Brown sent a shot over the left centerfield wall to give Missouri a 3-1 lead.

"I would have been really happy with just the home run, not really expecting anything more than that," Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said. "After the home run, offensively we executed so well."

As the Tigers' bats got hot, Texas A&M's defense fall apart. The next three Tigers reached base, the last coming on a run-scoring error by the Aggies' first basemen who fumbled a sacrifice bunt.

After a flyout from freshman C.J. Jarvis, junior Conner Mach singled home another run and sophomore Brannon Champagne reached on a bunt single to load the bases.

Sophomore Eric Garcia grounded to the second baseman who couldn't field it cleanly, leading to two more runs.

After senior Jonah Schmidt walked, Brown topped off his big inning by singling up the middle for two more runs. He advanced to second on a throwing error by the center fielder.

"The last thing [Texas A&M] would have thought in that situation was that we were going to be able to put up a three spot, let alone a nine spot," Jamieson said. "I think it caught them back on their heels a little bit."

Wacha ended the day giving up nine runs (four earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, Stites kept cruising along despite having to wait through the Tigers' prolonged bottom of the sixth inning. Stites retired six of the last seven batters he faced. His lone blemish of the day came on a home run from Texas A&M's Kevin Gonzalez in the fifth inning.

"I knew if I kept the runs to a minimum we were going to get that big inning soon enough," Stites said.

The win gives Missouri another its second conference series win, after it took two out of three from Baylor last weekend. Stites was on the mound a week ago when the Tigers beat the Bears 10-1.

"I think our Saturday game against Baylor where we dropped 10 runs against them, I think that was big turning point for our team," Stites said. "I know we're going to come out and stroke game after game now."

As Missouri heads into the last third of the conference schedule, Brown said the last week is a sign of what the Tigers are capable of.

"We all knew what we could do, it's great now that everybody else knows," Brown said.

Missouri looks for the sweep as the two teams face off at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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