SAN DIEGO–Missouri junior righthander Ian Berger isn’t afraid of facing dangerous lineups. A year ago, Berger was at his best against some of the nation’s strongest offenses, beating Oklahoma State, holding Arizona State to three runs and holding a red-hot Louisville team to two runs (one earned) over six innings in the Columbia (Mo.) regional.
So facing a San Diego State club that entered Friday night averaging more than 10 runs per game over its first six contests, the Tigers felt confident they had the right guy on the mound. Berger responded by holding the Aztecs to just one run on six hits and no walks while striking out five over 7 1/3 innings, and Missouri won a brisk 3-1 affair to complete a sweep of its two games Friday. Earlier, the Tigers held on to beat California 7-5.
"I just tried to go out there and throw strikes and keep them off balance," Berger said. "I was throwing all three pitches for strikes–my fastball, changeup and curveball–so it really worked out for me today. (Catcher) Trevor Coleman did a great job mixing it up back there, and we discussed our game plan between innings. I could basically throw any pitch I wanted today for strikes, so it helped me out. I think the only pitch I actually threw inside was the home run I gave up (to Troy Hanzawa in the third), and the kid put a good swing on it, so what are you going to do? But I was living away the whole game."
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said Berger was content to work the outer half until the Aztecs adjusted and forced him to mix it up, and they never did. It was an encouraging performance from a pitcher listed as Missouri’s No. 4 starter.
"He threw great, and kept his pitch count down. We needed a quality start because we had really only had one (to date this season)," Jamieson said. "I think obviously if he ends up being in the middle of the week, a guy who gobbles up innings in the middle of the week is worth his weight in gold. And if your second or third guy struggle a little bit, it’s great to have competition to get the best out of everyone."
Offensively, the Tigers played with plenty of energy and did not give away at-bats against tough San Diego State lefthander Nate Solow. They pushed across single runs in the third, fourth and eighth, spoiling another strong outing by Solow, who allowed just two runs (one earned) on eight hits while striking out nine over seven innings.
"Solow has been really good this year," SDSU coach Tony Gwynn said. "He located his fastball, and he had a little cut-piece and a change, and he mixed them all up. And he was challenging people tonight, he went right at them. He really kept us in the game, because that was one of those kind of games where it’s easy to get frustrated, because we booted some balls behind him (the Aztecs made four errors), but he kept his composure nicely. Even when his pitch count got up and I got a little nervous, he said he was all right and he could go one more. Really he kept us in a position where offensively if we could get something going, maybe we could get back in the game. But their guys shut us down."
Still, San Diego State must feel good knowing it has a quality one-two punch like Steven Strasburg and Solow atop the rotation, to go along with a dangerous offense. But Missouri has to feel even better about getting a couple of quality wins today and holding two hot-hitting teams to a combined six runs.
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