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March 20, 2009

Gibson does it again

No one covers Tiger athletics like PowerMizzou.com. This year, we've added baseball coverage to our top-notch football and basketball beats. To follow the Tigers year-round, sign up today to start your Free Seven-Day Trial.

Another Friday night. Another dominating performance by junior Kyle Gibson. Gibson led the Tigers to a complete game 3-2 victory giving up five hits with a career high 16 strikeouts. Head coach Tim Jamieson never doubted that Gibson would be able to finish the game.

"He was going nine innings, and that was it," Jamieson said. "His pitch count was very manageable, and his stuff was great. He never really had any good swings against him. You look for signs that the guy is getting tired, and he had none. It was his game through the ninth inning, and we would have done something for the tenth if we had to."

The win improved the Tigers record to 10-10 (2-2 in the Big 12) on the season. It was the first time the Tigers reached .500 since the second game of the year. On Friday night, Jamieson once again turned to his ace in hopes of capturing the first game of a crucial series with Texas A&M.

Gibson did not disappoint. In the first inning, he mixed in two strikeouts with a groundout, making short work of the Aggie batters. The entire team seemed to be at an energy level yet to be seen on the season. They responded with two runs in their half of the inning.

"You don't want to mess up," Greg Folgia said "You want to work your butt off and keep everything in front of you on defense and then on the offense, you try to do everything you can to score runs. He is pitching real well this year so far, so we are just trying to get him a win."

Centerfielder Ryan Lollis and catcher Trevor Coleman provided back-to-back hits when Aaron Senne stepped up to the plate in the first. After fouling off a few pitches and working the count full, Senne knocked Lollis home with an "excuse me" check swing that the third baseman could not handle. Greg Folgia finished the scoring in the inning with a base hit to leftfield giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

All season, coach Jamieson had preached about the need for his team to have more quality at-bats and timely hitting. His team responded with two clutch hits in the first inning.

"It's big time," Gibson said. "When I am able to put up a zero, and our guys put up a couple there is not a better feeling. The other team just took all the energy out of their pitcher and their offense because they put up a zero, and then we put up two. It's just big time. There is no other big thing in baseball other than throwing the first punch and jumping on them early, and that's what we like to do here at Mizzou."

The Tigers missed an opportunity to bust the game open in the bottom of the third. After the first three batters reached base safely, Missouri could not put any runs on the board. After a spastic first few innings, Texas A&M pitcher Brooks Raley (4-0) was able to strikeout two and induce a groundout to end the threat.

The Aggies tried everything to get to Gibson. After Gibson completed the first three innings with no hits, leadoff hitter Scott Arthur tried bunting only to be robbed by a great play between third baseman Kyle Mach and first baseman Greg Folgia. Mach made numerous plays on the field throughout the night whenever the Aggies were able to make contact.

"That guy is the best I have had behind me at third base," Gibson said. "He fields everything. He never makes a bad throw, so if it's in his glove you know the guy is out."

In another attempt to put runners on base, Aggie rightfielder Greg Parsons ran to first in an attempt to convince the umpire that he had been hit by the pitch. The umpire called him back, and Gibson promptly struck him out on the next pitch.

In the seventh, the Aggies finally figured out Gibson. After two-straight hits and a walk, Texas A&M cracked the scoreboard on a fielders choice. Gibson proceeded to throw a ball in the dirt that got away from Coleman, and the Aggies suddenly found themselves in a tie with Missouri. Texas A&M threatened again in the eighth with a runner on second and just one out, but Gibson was able to strikeout Kyle Colligan to end the inning.

The Tigers were determined to avoid letting another late-inning lead slip away. In the bottom of the eighth, Gibson was given a second chance when Folgia continued his hot hitting and led off with a single. He advanced to third after an opposite field hit by freshman Conner Mach. Jamieson pinch-hit with Steve Gray who was able to beat out an infield hit and avoid a double play. In the process, Folgia scored what would be the game winning run for Missouri.

"I got two strikes on me pretty quick," Gray said. "I was thinking that he was going to come with that slider, but he gave me another fastball. I was lucky that I didn't hit it any harder actually. It was just a weak ground ball that I was able to beat out the throw from second. It was really just kind of luck."

Gibson is normally a calm pitcher on the mound. In the ninth, however, he could no longer contain his emotions. After striking out the last two batters, Gibson raised his fists to the sky and let out a yell as his teammates converged on their star pitcher. He knew how important this victory was for his team.

"Pitching in the Big 12 is fun," he said. "Last week you pitch against the No. 1 team in the nation, and this week you pitch against the No. 3 team in the nation. I just like pitching like that. When my offense helps me out like that and gives me the runs they did, that's exciting. When I am able to go out and do my job, and I have great defense behind me, I get excited."

No one covers Tiger athletics like PowerMizzou.com. This year, we've added baseball coverage to our top-notch football and basketball beats. To follow the Tigers year-round, sign up today to start your Free Seven-Day Trial.



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