Ethan Gross had three hits and three RBI as Memphis (4-3) completed a three-game sweep of Missouri (0-6) with an 8-2 victory Sunday at FedExPark.
Memphis scored five insurance runs in the eighth to ice the first sweep of an SEC opponent since 1981.
Memphis used a two-out rally to grab a 1-0 lead in the first. Missouri starter Eric Anderson made his season debut after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and got the first two outs, but Tucker Tubbs got the first hit for Memphis with a double down the left field line. Bryce Beeler was walked to put two runners on and Drew Griffin had the second double in the inning to drive in Tubbs. The double was Griffin's fourth of the season and he collected his team-high fifth RBI on the play.
Alex Gunn made his second start for Memphis and allowed four hits over four innings of work. In the second, Gunn faced runners on first and second with one out, but the junior pitcher escaped trouble via a strikeout and pop out. Missouri got two runners on with two outs in the third, but Gunn worked out of the jam with a fly out to center.
Missouri retired eight-straight Memphis hitters until Nate Rupiper worked a leadoff walk in the fifth. Gross, starting his 100th consecutive game, singled through the left side to put two runners on with one out. Rupiper and Gross succeeded with a double steal, but Missouri got a strikeout and groundout to end the threat.
Reliever Jon Reed worked a scoreless fifth and sixth inning, but Missouri used a leadoff single in the seventh to eventually tie the game at 1-1. An error on the pickoff attempt allowed pinch-runner Case Munson to move into scoring position with nobody out. A grounder to second moved Munson to third, but Reed fielded a grounder back to him for the second out. Jake Ivory ripped a double to centerfield to plate the tying run, but Reed ended the inning with the game tied at 1-1.
Memphis answered in the bottom of the seventh inning, but it took miscues by Missouri to score two runs in the frame. Rupiper reached on an error to start the inning and he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. A wild pitch moved Rupiper to third and Gross drove him in with a RBI single just past the glove of the diving shortstop with the infield drawn in. Gross stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch and the third wild pitch of the inning allowed Gross to score for a 3-1 Memphis lead.
Missouri got one run back in the eighth, but Reed stranded the potential tying run on second base. With two outs, Dane Opel singled up the middle and a wild pitch moved him to scoring position. Keaton Steele drove him in with his own single up the middle to cut the lead to 3-2. Steele, the potential tying run, moved to second on a passed ball, but Reed forced a fly out to keep the Memphis lead.
A three-run eighth added insurance for Memphis. Tubbs and Beeler started the frame with back-to-back singles and Griffin moved each to scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Missouri intentionally walked Little to load the bases and Rupiper made the score 4-2 with an infield RBI single. Corey Chafin was called on to pitch hit and he belted the first pitch he saw to left field for a two RBI single to give Memphis a 6-2 lead. Gross hit next and added two more RBI with a single to left field to set the final score of 8-2.
Reed picked up the win to move to 2-0 on the season as he pitched four innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits. Gunn and Reed pitched back-to-back for the second-straight week to pitch eight innings and allow two runs and no walks.
Gross led the Memphis offense on the day with a 3-for-4 day at the plate. He drove in three, stole a base and scored a run. Tubbs was 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored and Memphis out-hit Missouri 9-8 on the game.
Memphis travels to Ole Miss for its first road test of the season on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Oxford University Stadium in Oxford, Miss.
Game Notes - Ethan Gross made his 100th consecutive start in Sunday's game. Gross has started every Memphis game since game two of a doubleheader at East Carolina on March 26, 2011.
Drew Griffin hit his fifth double in the first inning giving Memphis 10 doubles on the season.
Corey Chafin and Andrew Allen made their Memphis debuts on Sunday. Chafin ripped a two RBI single on the first pitch he saw for his first career hit and RBI. With three RBI, Gross recorded his fourth career multi-RBI game. Gross had three hits for his 30th career multi-hit game and first of 2013. Alex Gunn now has seven scoreless innings to start his Memphis career.
Memphis pitching held Missouri to five (5) runs in the series the fewest runs scored by an opponent in a three-game set since Murray State had five (5) runs in a series duing the 2004 season.