March 3, 2008


Around the Bases
Missouri's Gibson holds Cal Poly in check

By Chris Hadorn


Facing a fourth starter is typically an easier matchup for an opposing team, but not when that pitcher happens to be a likely future first-round pick.


On the last day of the University of San Diego Tournament on Sunday afternoon, the Missouri Tigers (6-2) threw their No. 4 guy, Kyle Gibson, to the hill and he earned his second win of the season in a 6-3 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs (3-4) at San Diego State’s Tony Gwynn Stadium. Gibson threw six innings, gave up two earned runs, surrendered eight hits, walked two and struck out four. Missouri finished the USD Tournament with a 3-1 record, highlighted by a deep pitching staff that gave up 13 runs in four games.


“Anytime when you win on the road, three out of four, it’s a pretty good thing,” said Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson. “But, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Gibson allowed the four Mustang batters he faced to reach base in the bottom of the first. Shortstop Kyle Smith doubled to left on a ground ball down the third base line and second baseman Pat Pezet followed with a soft liner to left that advanced Smith to third.  Jordan Schafer, the All-Big West centerfielder, brought Smith home with a hard groundball single to left  as Cal Poly took the lead 1-0. Cleanup batter Brent Morel loaded the bases by pulling a groundball single to short. It was placed perfectly in the hole where Missouri shortstop Lee Fischer had no play. Cal Poly extended its lead to 2-0 when catcher Wes Dorrell drove in Pezet on a sacrifice fly to left, Missouri’s first out of the inning. That would be the last run Gibson would give up the rest of the day. The 6-foot-6, 196 pound right-hander induced two outs on the ground to get out of the jam.
“A lot of ground balls that seemed to get through weren’t hit that hard, and Kyle is going to give up a lot of ground balls,” Jamieson said. “He threw strikes, he didn’t beat himself and beared down in tough situations. That first inning could have turned into a five or six-run inning. That fact he kept it small, he gave us a chance to comeback.”
Coming off an 11-strikeout performance in seven innings versus Alabama on Feb. 23, Cal Poly starter Steven Fischback was impressive right off the bat, throwing two scoreless innings, striking out two and allowing no hits.  He kept the Mizzou batters off-balanced by attacking them with his fastball-slider combination. Fischback’s luck changed in the top of the third when Missouri took a 3-2 lead and never looked back. Leading off the inning, Missouri’s Kyle Mach reached base on a fielding error and Fischback was never quite the same as he hit two batters in the inning and surrendered three RBI singles to Austin Holt, Jacob Priday and Aaron Senne.
Holt, the Tigers junior second baseman, added another RBI single in the fourth to extend the lead to 4-2.  In the top of the fifth, right fielder  Jacob Priday crushed a 2-2 fastball over the centerfield fence for a home run to make the score 5-2.  It was Priday’s second round-tripper of the season. Priday, the two-time All-Big XII first team selection, was brushed back on the previous pitch by a high, inside fastball from Fischback, but the chin music proved to have no effect on his poise. Fischback (1-1) left the game after 5.2 innings and was charged with five runs, four earned, seven hits and a walk. He struck out five.
Cal Poly had an opportunity for a big inning in the bottom of the third when Schafer led off with a hard line-drive single to right and Morel followed with a double to right.  Priday, the Tigers’ rightfielder, missed the cut-off man throwing the ball in on Morel’s two-bagger. Schafer tried to take advantage of the mistake but was tagged out on a throw from Tigers third baseman Mach to catcher Trevor Coleman. Gibson got two more of his patented weak groundouts to leave Morel stranded on third.
From the second inning on, Gibson surrendered four hits, one walk, no runs and fanned four over his final five innings. Throwing on a downward plane from a 6-foot-6 frame, hitters have a difficult time picking up the ball. He generated weak contact with a low-90s fastball that had heavy sinking action and also frustrated the Mustangs with a late-breaking slider and a solid change-up.
“Luckily my two-seamer drops a lot, I am able to throw it and use it for ground balls,” Gibson said. “When I am at my best, I am able to throw everything right down the middle and let my movement take over. In the later innings, I was able to do that.”
“He [Gibson] has a lot of late life on all his pitches,” Jamieson said. “It’s real late and sharp and it’s difficult to square the bat up to the ball.”
The Tigers added their final run in the top of the seventh when centerfielder Kurt Calbert scored from third on a passed ball.
After Gibson left, Tigers relievers Kelly Fick, Ryan Gargano and Nick  Tepesch combined to allow only two hits and no walks over the final three  innings. Cal Poly got an inconsequential run in the bottom of the ninth, but they didn’t have any big-run scoring opportunities down the stretch. It was a bitter end to the tournament for the Mustangs, who were only able to muster one win in four tries, a 3-2 victory over Fresno State on Saturday. Two of Cal Poly’s other defeats were in one-run contests versus San Diego and San Diego State.
Friday and Holt each had multiple hits and two RBI. Cal Poly’s hitting stars were Morel, who went 3 for 5, and Schafer, who batted 2 for 5 with a RBI. 
Missouri returns home to frigid Columbia where there’s snow in the forecast for Monday. They are scheduled to play their home opener versus Western Illinois on Tuesday night.