After run-rule loss to LSU, can Missouri baseball find its footing on pivotal weekend?

Round 1 went to the visitors.

Missouri baseball and LSU find themselves embroiled in a battle for the final spots into May’s 12-team SEC Tournament entering a weekend series in Columbia.

On Friday night, LSU resembled the reigning national champions far more than a team fighting for a spot in the postseason, jumping all over Mizzou from the off and never letting up in a seven-inning, 12-1 win at Taylor Stadium.

LSU (24-15, 4-12 SEC) entered the series opener two games behind Missouri and in 13th place, a non-qualifying spot, for the conference tournament. Now, one game separates 12th-place Missouri (17-22, 5-11 SEC) and 13th-placed LSU (24-15, 4-12) with two more games to play in Columbia.

And the visitors didn’t leave much to chance.

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Before the evening matchup began, Missouri baseball starter Logan Lunceford had given up six home runs over the course of his nine starts. By the time his night came to a premature close, Lunceford watched three of his pitches sail out of Taylor Stadium and gave up seven hits, four walks and eight runs, all earned, in 2⅔ innings.

In the middle of that run, LSU designated hitter Hayden Travinski drilled a three-run home run over right-center, and second baseman Steven Milam and catcher Brady Neal hit solo shots to similar spots.

Under Jacobi, the Tigers’ night didn’t get much better. LSU first baseman Jared Jones sent a two-run shot, and a wild pitch scored left fielder Mac Bingham put LSU up 11-1, sending the game into run-rule territory and Missouri deeper into its bullpen.

“At the end of the day they gotta flush it,” Jackson said. “You know, it is what it is. We don't get a good pitching performance and as a result, whether or not it was correlated, I don't know, but we were awful at the plate.”

Missouri left fielder Jeric Curtis hit a thanks-for-coming, run-scoring single to put Missouri on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third, but the damage had long since been done.

Other than that, LSU starter Gage Jump, who Jackson said in his postgame press conference “did not have good command,” handcuffed the MU offense for most of the evening, allowing three hits and a walk in his complete-game win.

Missouri left fielder Jeric Curtis swings at a pitch during a game against LSU on Friday night at Taylor Stadium in Columbia.
Missouri left fielder Jeric Curtis swings at a pitch during a game against LSU on Friday night at Taylor Stadium in Columbia.

Now, the question stands: Can Missouri quickly find a way to right its wrongs?

There’s an SEC Tournament spot potentially on the line.

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Where does Missouri baseball stand in SEC Tournament race?

Kerrick Jackson was short and sweet in his summary.

“We are consistently inconsistent,” he said.

Friday’s loss to LSU was exemplary of the worrying end of Missouri’s scatter plot — the data points that show a tied series with Northern Kentucky and a three-game sweep while scoring two runs at Vanderbilt.

The reason?

“I think just the idea of just not understanding how the game is played,” Jackson said. “I think that we search for the results. We really don't get locked in and control what it is that we can control, which is the process. And having the understanding that at the plate, if you go to the plate and you're consistent with your approach, then your results are going to be consistent; they’re probably going to go in your favor. Defensively, doing those things we work on constantly in practice every day, and I just think that they get out there and it just escapes them.”

But there’s also the MU that swept then-No. 6 Florida and took a game from high-flying, SEC-leading Kentucky — the Wildcats’ lone conference loss to date.

That’s what MU needs to recapture in Saturday and Sunday’s games — two potentially pivotal matchups in the hunt for a postseason berth.

As the season wears on, Missouri and LSU could be battling for the final spot into the SEC Tournament. After Friday’s result, a single game now separates the two teams in 12th and 13th place in the league standings, which also marks the gap between a trip to Hoover and an early curtain call.

If Missouri can take one of the remaining two games in the series — Saturday’s game is at 4 p.m. in Columbia, while Sunday’s begins at 2 p.m. — it will maintain that lead into a road series with Tennessee next weekend.

Mizzou is three games behind Georgia and Mississippi State; two behind Florida; and half a game behind Alabama. MU is three games ahead of Auburn, which sits bottom of the conference. Following this weekend’s slate, there are four more SEC series left in the regular season.

Before that: MU will jostle for position with LSU.

“I think as they look at the standings, they kind of see where we sit, and it's easy to kind of do the math,” Jackson said. “So, I don't know if it's pressure, per se, but it is what it is — like, either you want to play in the tournament or you don't, right? And the idea of pressure when you're in the SEC — if you feel pressure in this league, then you're in the wrong place. You’ve just gotta go out and play.”

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This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: After loss to LSU, can Missouri baseball save possibly pivotal weekend?