COLUMBIA — Missouri lefty Art Joven was electric in his first Southeastern Conference start Sunday, guiding the Tigers to an 11-5 series-clinching win against No. 8 LSU.
It was Missouri's first series win against LSU in program history.
Joven, a junior from Bakersfield, Calif., by way of College of the Sequoias, threw 6 innings, the first five of which were hitless, and gave up three hits and two unearned runs with three walks and six strikeouts. He'd thrown 29 innings as a Division I pitcher before Sunday, with a 3.07 ERA.
"I started off slow, and my off-speed wasn't really there, but I just tried taking it one out at a time," Joven (3-0) said of his 97-pitch, 63-strike outing.
"It's huge, but I think we're all capable of this. We're a good team, and it was a good win."
Missouri is now 25-12-1, 7-7-1 in the SEC, and in contention for a spot in some Top 25 lists that will come out today.
"It's such a luxury to have four quality left-handers like that, that are all starters, and we expected Art to come in and throw really well today," Missouri coach Steve Bieser said. "I thought he was effectively wild early, and then he started settling in and gave us what we needed out of a start."
After an 11-10 loss in extra innings Friday night, Missouri's pitching staff held LSU to six runs and 12 hits. Since the fifth inning of Friday's game, Missouri outscored LSU 18-7, and after a dominant performance Saturday from TJ Sikkema in a 4-1 win, the Tigers were one run away from sweeping a Top 10 conference opponent.
"This is definitely a statement win for our program, that we're here to stay and we're here to compete," Bieser said of the series. "And that's exactly the message that I want our players to understand, that every series we go into, we talk about it a lot and we talk about series wins, it doesn't matter if you go down 0-1 like we did in this series, you've got to continue to battle. If you do enough right things, you've got a chance to win the series."
The Tigers have not lost a conference series in their last four outings after being swept at Arkansas to start SEC play. Missouri has five wins against Top 25 teams this season, and is now 3-15 all-time against LSU.
Tony Ortiz hit a 3-run home run to right in the second inning as Missouri struck first, and the Tigers plated runs in the third, fourth and fifth as well, eventually building an 8-0 lead after back-to-back sacrifice flies from Ortiz and Paul Gomez in the fifth. LSU drew within 9-5 entering the bottom of the 8th, but Kameron Misner hit a towering 2-run shot off the roof of Devine Pavilion, his team-best ninth of the season, that the SEC Network crew estimated traveled 457 feet.
"It kind of put a cap on all the momentum," Misner said. "It feels good when you put a few more runs up in the last inning, then they gotta add on more than they thought they had to. It's a good feeling.
"It was the third time he came in on me, and they've been coming in a lot this weekend when I get two strikes, and the approach was just getting the barrel to it, and I did. Put a good swing on it and it went pretty far."
The team racked up 14 hits off of four LSU pitchers, and every Missouri batter had at least one hit. Clayton Peterson, Chris Cornelius, Misner, Chad McDaniel and Ortiz all had 2-hit outings. Ortiz led the team with four RBI, Misner drove in three and Gomez two. The Tigers stranded just six runners.
"I don't think we're scared of anybody," Ortiz said. "I think we kind of knew it, but now, I guess we put the whole nation on notice now, that we're ready."
But probably the most impressive thing about Missouri's conference record — the Tigers are .500 for the first time all season — is that record has come despite winning just one series opener, against Mississippi.
That will be tough to break, as after a mid-week game Tuesday at Missouri State, Missouri travels to Athens, Ga., for a Thursday-Saturday series against Georgia and potential No. 1 pick Emerson Hancock, the Bulldogs' Thursday starter.