Missouri enters SEC play looking to snap a six-game losing streak against No. 2 Tennessee.
The Tigers lead the all-time series against the Volunteers 14-13. But only two current players — fifth-year senior Tre Morris and redshirt senior Luke Mann — were on the team the last time the Tigers beat the Vols, back on May 5, 2019.
Tennessee has outscored Missouri a combined 49-20 over the past six meetings, a trend the Tigers (13-3) hope to buck starting Friday in the series opener at Taylor Stadium.
Friday’s game was moved up to 3 p.m. from the original 6 p.m. start time. Saturday’s game is slated for a 2 p.m. start, and the series finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Tennessee (15-3) enters SEC play on a four-game winning streak. The Vols have one of the most potent offenses in the country under the tutelage of coach Tony Vitello, a former player and assistant coach at MU.
Sophomore first baseman Blake Burke leads UT in several offensive categories, including batting average (.400), slugging (.877), OPS (1.336), hits (26), home runs (eight) and RBI (24).
Griffin Merritt has been a key cog in the Vols’ lineup after playing four seasons at Cincinnati. The grad transfer is hitting .333 with six homers and 17 RBI.
Keeping sophomore infielder Christian Moore off the base paths will be a priority for the Tigers. He’s drawn a walk a team-high 20 times — helping him to a team-best .513 on-base percentage — and is 11-for-11 on stolen-base attempts this season.
The Vols have also gotten production out of senior Zane Denton, sophomore Christian Moore and redshirt sophomore Jared Dickey. Denton has 19 hits and 18 RBI, Moore has scored 23 runs and Dickey has five home runs. All three are hitting over .315.
Missouri’s offense will face three right-handed starters in Chase Dollander, Chase Burns and Drew Beam, who come into the series with respective ERAs of 2.45, 1.88 and 2.57. All three were named to the 2023 Golden Spikes Award Watch List.
Dollander and Burns also were preseason first-team All-America selections by D1baseball and Baseball America.
After MU won two of three games in a low-scoring series against NJIT, the Tigers’ offense came alive in a 10-8 home win over Lamar on Wednesday. Sixth-year senior Hank Zeisler hit three of MU’s six homers and now has eight for the season. He also increased his slugging percentage to .851.
Zeisler has 23 RBI, nine more than Mann and Helias grad Trevor Austin. All three are hitting over .315, along with Dalton Bargo (.382), Ross Lovich (.379), Ty Wilmsmeyer (.352), Justin Colon (.349) and Jackson Lovich (.333).
Right-hander Chandler Murphy will match up opposite Dollander on Friday, and fellow righty Rorik Maltrid will start Saturday for the Tigers.
Murphy (2-1) has a 3.48 ERA in four starts this season, while opponents are hitting just .167 against Maltrud (1-0). Missouri has not yet announced Sunday’s starter.
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