The Missouri Tigers (31-27, 16-14) didn't exactly live up to their preseason ranking in 1997, but when it was said and done, the Tigers had completed their second consecutive 30-win season and were quite possibly just one win away from an NCAA bid.
With an 18-22 overall record an a 6-12 conference mark on April 18, Missouri knew it had to turn it up a notch. That it did by winning 14 of their last 17 games, including eight of their 11 conference games against the likes of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State. All of a sudden, the Tigers were one of hottest teams in the country headed into the inaugeral Big 12 Tournament where they took with them an 8-games winning streak.
The Tigers faced the No.1 seed, Texas Tech, in the first round and took it on the chin by a score of 12-2. Facing elimination the next day, Missouri scratched and clawed its way to a dramatic 9-8 win over Baylor, thus ending any hopes the Bears had for an NCAA bid. Many people thought a win over Oklahoma in the next round might vault the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament. In front of a national-television audience, the Sooners' bats were too much for Mizzou as they went to defeat MU 16-7 to end the season.
NIVENS, JAWOROWSKI, LEFT THEIR MARKS
Matt Nivens' eligibility ran out and Aaron Jaworowski opted to sign a Major League contract, but both will be remembered as two of Missouri's all-time best. Despite the loss to Oklahoma on national television, a game that signaled the end of their MU careers, both left with a bang in that game.
With Nivens on third base in the first inning, Jaworowski doubled into the left field corner driving in two runs. On that play, Nivens became the all-time leader in runs scored (211) at Missouri while Jaworowski became the all-time leader in runs batted in (182).
Nivens also broke the school record for bases-on-balls in a career and could be seen on several other career lists including hits, home runs, doubles, total bases and stolen bases. Jaworowski, in just two and one-half years of action, is fourth all-time in home runs. He also among the Missouri all-time greats in doubles, extra-base hits and total bases.
NIVENS WAS MISSOURI'S IRON MAN
Matt Nivens' 'iron man' streaks officially came to an end when his career ended on May 17. Nivens appeared in 157 consecutive games for the Tigers and was the MU leadoff hitter in 123 consecutive contests.
Perhaps the most amazing streak that Nivens will be known for was his consecutive games reaching base. Texas Tech pitcher Shane Wright ended Nivens' streak of 78 straight games reaching base via hit or walk. The streak began on March 12, 1996 and ended on April 6, 1997. Incidentally, the April 6 game vs. Texas Tech was called after seven innings because of the 10-run rule. Just one week later, the Big 12 found out that the 10-run rule should not have been in effect in that game or any other game in college baseball. Nivens would have batted one more time in that game.
BIG 12 TOOK NOTICE OF GRIFFIN MOORE
Maybe not enough notice. Griffin Moore was selected as an honorable mention All-Big 12 performer, but had as good of numbers as any shortsop in the Big 12. Moore led the Tigers in hitting (.348), hits (80), home runs (18), RBI (72) and slugging (.665). He was named the Louisville Slugger National-Player-of-the-Week after hitting home runs in seven consecutive games. He came one home run away from tying an NCAA record with eight.
INJURIES PLAGUED THE TIGERS THROUGHOUT 1997
Missouri trainer Dave Hammons was a busy man in 1997 as the Tigers suffered through numerous injuries throughout the season. With the Missouri pitching staff looking to equal or better its performance of 1996, two key components were down and out for much of 1997.
Jeremy Callier, a two-time All-Big Eight selection, missed half of the season with elbow problems. It wasn't until the last month of the season that Callier regained his form. Also missing for most of the season was Mike Haverty, who was among the 1996 Big Eight ERA leaders. Haverty went down with elbow problems during the second week of the season and saw spot action the rest of the year. Haverty did end his career on a good note by pitching an inning of scoreless baseball in the season finale against Oklahoma.
The Tigers also played the first half of the season without third baseman B.J. Windhorst. Windhorst was penciled in as the everyday starter at the beginning of the season but suffered a knee injury in the fall. He was never 100 percent but ended up starting the last 15 games and hit .333.
STINE AND BELL STEPPED UP IN THE ROTATION
Left-handers Justin Stine and Jay Bell became MU's No.1 and 2 pitchers after Callier's injury and both ended up winning nine games.
Stine, a freshman All-American as a closer in 1996, broke into the starting rotation just a week into the season and pitched a complete game victory in his first start vs. San Diego. Stine ended up leading the Tigers in complete games with six and broke the Missouri single-season record with 123.0 innings pitched.
Bell also won nine games and was particularly tough in against Big 12 opponents. Bell was 6-2 vs. the Big 12 and picked up wins vs. three of the top five teams in the conference (Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma).
JAMISON AND RALLO WERE SOLID FRESHMEN
Freshmen Ryan Jamison and Mike Rallo both made positive impacts on the 1997 season for the Tigers. Jamison recorded a 5-3 record with a team- leading 4.59 ERA. He made 27 appearances and one start for the Tigers and led the team in saves with five. At one point in the season, Jamison went 16.2 innings without allowing an earned run.
Rallo hit .280 for the Tigers, but made his biggest impact with the power numbers. Rallo connected for eight home runs and drove in 38 runs. He connected for two 3-run home runs in his first career Big 12 series at Kansas State. He also blasted two home runs in a three-game series vs. Texas A&M.
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