Tigers Continue Homestand with Charlotte

<i>Blake Brown leads the team with 11 runs scored this season.</i>

Blake Brown leads the team with 11 runs scored this season.

March 7, 2012

Mizzou (5-5) vs. Charlotte (9-4)
• Date: March 9-11
• Location: Columbia, Mo.
• Stadium: Simmons Field at Taylor Stadium (3,013)
• Gametracker: MUTigers.com
• Radio: KTGR 1580 AM/100.5 FM
• Media Notes: Series Notes - vs. Charlotte Get Acrobat Reader

First Pitch - What You Need to Know
The Mizzou baseball team will look to extend its season-long three-game winning streak as the defending Atlantic-10 Conference Champion Charlotte 49ers come to Columbia for a four-game set this weekend, beginning Friday at 6 p.m. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. before playing the series finale Sunday at 1 p.m.

Series History • This weekend's series marks the second straight season that Mizzou and Charlotte will play after the Tigers dropped three of four in Charlotte last season. That is the only meeting between the two schools. Mizzou was in every game of the series with the exception of Sunday's game, losing 5-4 in the Friday night game and 3-2 in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader. Mizzou's only win in the series came in game two of that doubleheader, a 4-2 win in 12 innings. Mizzou then lost 22-7 on Sunday.

Career Stats vs. Charlotte • Heading into this weekend's series, several Tigers have had success against Charlotte in their careers. Below are a few notable performers from last year's series.

Last Time Out • Mizzou freshman Brett Graves made his first career collegiate start and earned the win as the Tigers defeated Nebraska-Omaha. 14-4, on Tuesday night at Taylor Stadium. Graves went 4.0 and allowed just four hits while fanning four Maverick batters. He did not allow a run. The story of the game was the Tiger bats, which continue to produce as the Tigers scored 14 runs in the game, their second-best total this season. Conner Mach went 3-4 with four runs driven in while Dane Opel went 2-4 with three RBI, including a solo shot over the bullpen in left field.

Tigers Continue Season-Long Homestand
Mizzou is in the midst of a 19-game scheduled homestand that runs throughout nearly the entire month of March. The homestand began with Ball State last weekend and concludes with a two-game series against Central Arkansas on March 27-28. Mizzou's next road game will not be until playing at Big 12 favorite Texas A&M on March 30.

Offense Explodes
Mizzou's offense was much maligned following the Tigers' three-game sweep at the hands of San Francisco and then the bats fell under even more scrutiny following the Friday loss to Ball State last weekend. But since that point, the Tiger offense has been red hot. In fact, as a team the Tigers are hitting .359 with an OBP of .477. In those three games, the Tigers have outscored their opponents, 38-11, while seven of the Tigers' nine regular position players are hitting .333 or better, highlighted by a .625 clip from Dillon Everett and a .556 mark from Blake Brown.

More on the Offense
Mizzou scored 15 runs in its 15-5 win over Ball State last Saturday, marking the first time that a Tiger team has hit the 15-run mark since May, 2010, marking the first time since the switch to the new bats that the Tigers have accomplished that feat. The Tigers came close to that run total again against UNO on Tuesday, setting season-highs in hits (14), RBI (12), total bases (21) and extra-base hits (four).

Breaking Out
During Mizzou's current three-game win streak, it has been noted that the offense has sparked the turnaround. A few notable individuals have been key in that turnaround, most notably Blake Brown, Conner Mach, Eric Garcia and Dillon Everett. That foursome was hitting a combined .117 (10-of-85) heading into the last three games with nine runs, four RBI and just two-extra base hits. Over the last three games, those four batters are the team's top four hitters at a combined .548 (23-of-42) with 20 runs, 17 RBI and six extra-base hits while slugging .738.

Lucansky Shines In First Series
Freshman infielder Landon Lucansky earned his first career start last Friday against Ball State and played in all three games against the Cardinals while putting up big numbers. While playing first base, Lucansky hit .273 with five runs driven in, including a two-run triple on Friday night, good for the first extra-base hit of his career. He also slugged .455 in 11 at-bats on the weekend. His five RBI on the weekend were the most by any Tiger on the weekend.

Sommerfeld Heating Up
Outfielder Scott Sommerfeld has been on a tear lately as he owns a team-best seven-game hit streak heading into the weekend while improving his average to .346 on the year, second on the team. He has nine hits in 26 at-bats with a double and four walks. Last season, Sommerfeld hit .304 while taking reps at first base, but his defense at the position made it a risk to have him in the lineup. Now, with a spot in the outfield, Sommerfeld is hitting as well as he has throughout his career.

Opel Shows Improvement
Dane Opel looks primed to bounce back from a disappointing year in 2011. He hit just .209 last season and struck out 30 times in just 115 at-bats with an OBP of under .300. Opel did show glimpses of power, with nine of his 24 hits going for extra bases. He seems to be returning to form after battling through a shoulder injury much of last season. He currently leads the team in batting (.355), RBI (eight), total bases (24), slugging (.774), extra-base hits (six) and hits (11).

Tiger Pitching Consistenly Good
Heading into this weekend's series with Charlotte, the Mizzou pitching staff is one of just two Big 12 teams to not allow more than six runs in a game this season - Texas Tech is the other team. In fact, Mizzou has given up just 40 runs through 10 games this season, good for just four per game. This is a marked improvement for a team that gave up more than six runs five times through its first 10 games a season ago.

Tiger Pitching Staff Piles up Ks
Last weekend against Ball State, the Tiger pitching staff began to show the potential that helped the Tigers earn a fifth-place nod in the Big 12 preseason poll. In fact, the Tiger pitchers struck out 29 Cardinal batters over the three games (9.67 per game) and walked just five batters. Newcomer Blake Holovach led the team with a career-best eight Ks over five innings on Sunday while sophomore lefty Rob Zastryzny fanned seven Cardinal batters over 6.0 innings of work on Saturday. In fact, Mizzou posted a season-best 15 strikeouts in the win over Ball State on Sunday. Those 15 strikeouts in the game are just two behind Texas A&M's 17 against Holy Cross for the top mark in the Big 12 this season.

Holovach Impresses
As mentioned above, junior lefty Blake Holovach impressed in his first start as a Tiger last Sunday, fanning a career-best eight batters over 5.0 innings of work. That performance has likely locked up the Sunday starting job for Holovach heading into this weekend against Charlotte as he is scheduled to make his second weekend start against the 49ers.

Platts to Start First Career Game
Another Tiger who has earned a weekend start for the Tigers in the Charlotte series is freshman Brandon Platts. After being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 13th round of the MLB Draft, Platts chose to come to Mizzou rather than sign with the Pirates. So far this season, he has pitched in two games, going 2.1 innings, allowing an earned run. This weekend will be his first real chance to showcase his stuff as a starter at Mizzou.

Pair of Newcomers Shine on the Mound
When looking at the Tiger pitching staff, a pair of newcomers - Jake Walsh and John Miles - have impressed so far this season. Walsh has not given up a run in five appearances this season while Miles has allowed just one run in three appearances this season. Walsh has also picked up three saves in his five appearances this season. Their combined line is 9.2 IP, four hits, three walks and 12 strikeouts with three saves. Walsh impressed in the Tigers' opening weekend at Auburn when he posted a pair of saves while pitching in all three games at Auburn.

Turner Catches Nearly Every Inning
Senior catcher Ben Turner has caught nearly every inning (78 of 84) for the Tigers so far this season and will likely continue that pace all season. Turner is tops on a depth chart at the catcher position that includes three newcomers and a redshirt freshman. Although it is early, something to track will be the amount of innings that Turner will catch this season. Since 2004, no Tiger catcher has started more than 54 games (JC Fields in 2006) and Turner has started all 10 this season. Turner's 44 starts at catcher last season are the most since Trevor Coleman started 53 games in 2008.

Opel Earns Big 12 Player of the Week
Junior lefty Dane Opel had arguably his best weekend as a Tiger at Auburn in week one, leading the Tigers with a .500 average in three games while hitting a pair of home runs and driving in four. He also scored a pair of runs, walked once and slugged 1.000 with an OBP of .538. He became the first Tiger since 2010 to tally a pair of home runs in a single game. For his efforts that weekend, Opel was honored as the Big 12 Player of the Week, becoming the first Tiger to earn a Big 12 weekly honor since Jonah Schmidt earned Big 12 Player of the Week following the Tigers' series win at Kansas State on May 9 last season.

Tigers Picked Fifth in the Big 12
The Mizzou baseball team was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 this season as announced by the conference office on Feb. 14. The fifth-place pick is the highest for the Tigers since 2009, when they were also picked fifth. The highest that Mizzou has ever been picked in the preseason poll is second in 2008.

MLB Draft Picks to Bolster Pitching Staff
A pair of MLB Draft picks out of high school decided to put their major league dreams aside and come pitch for Mizzou this season, giving the Tigers a pair of quality arms on the mound in 2012 to add to an already quality pitching rotation. Both Brandon Platts and Brett Graves could have begun their professional careers over the summer as Platts was a 13th-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Graves was chosen in the 26th round by the hometown St. Louis Cardinals.

Mach Returns After Being Drafted
Tiger third baseman Conner Mach returned to Mizzou for his senior season despite being one of four Tigers drafted in last year's MLB Draft. Mach was drafted in the 46th round by the New York Yankees. Mach finished the season hitting .285 with 32 RBI and 31 runs scored. He boasted an OBP of .378 and slugged .399 on the year with 17 extra-base hits with four home runs. He was one of the Tigers' hottest bats following a lineup change prior to the Baylor series, hitting .321 with all four of his home runs during that span.

Preparing for the Future
Mizzou opened its 2012 campaign by taking two of three games from SEC foe Auburn in the opening weekend. The series win for the Tigers holds significance because Mizzou will make the move from the Big 12 to the SEC next season. With the two wins, the Tigers are now 38-34-1 against teams currently in the SEC.

Jamieson Leads Team USA
Mizzou head baseball coach Tim Jamieson wrapped up his stint as the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team head coach last summer. In all, Jamieson led the club to an 11-2-1 overall record. Jamieson's .821 winning percentage this summer is the eighth-best in Collegiate National Team history, which dates back to 1984 (28 seasons). The team's two losses are its fewest since 2008, when the team went 24-0. Mizzou assistant coach Dan Pietroburgo was an auxiliary coach with the team as well this summer.

Anderson Pitches For Team USA
Team USA had another Mizzou connection this summer as well. Tiger junior Eric Anderson was one of the team's top pitchers over the summer. He led the team in ERA (0.00) and wins (two), while ranking second in innings pitched (12.0). He allowed just eight hits and two walks in his 12.0 innings of work and did not allow a run while striking out seven batters. Prior to his stint with USA Baseball, Anderson threw two games with Falmouth in the Cape Cod League, posting a 1.50 ERA.

Francis Howell Connection
With 17 newcomers on the team, there will be plenty of fresh faces on the field for Mizzou this season, but for a trio of freshmen, there will be a familiar feel. In fact, for Brett Graves, Jake Ivory and Case Munson, the 2012 season will just be an extension of their high school careers where they played together for four seasons, winning a MSHSAA State Title for Francis Howell High School last season. The trio has been playing together for nearly 10 years and should give Mizzou a strong foundation moving forward.

Tigers Raise Money For Joplin
Mizzou baseball raised $12,796 for the Joplin, Mo., Little Leagues with its Joplin Relief Games against Iowa in the fall. The baseball program partnered with Daniel Boone Little League, the Diamond Council, BC Baseball and The Callaway Bank to create a welcoming atmosphere for fans at Taylor Stadium. Large crowds packed the stands and helped raise the money, which will go directly to helping Joplin Little League rebuild its fields that were ravaged by a tornado on May 22, 2011.

Plackis Named to Mizzou `39
Mizzou baseball redshirt junior Andreas Plackis has been honored by the Mizzou Alumni Association as a recipient of the 2012 Mizzou `39 Award, an award given to 39 seniors at the University of Missouri based of their outstanding service, academic achievement and leadership. Plackis has been a model student during his time at Mizzou and he will graduate in May with a degree in Biological Sciences as he will pursue a medical degree following his undergraduate studies.

Simmons Field at Taylor Stadium Named Field of the Year
Simmons Field at Taylor Stadium, the home of the Mizzou baseball team, was named 2011 College and University Baseball Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA). The field is maintained and cared for by Mizzou Turf Specialist Josh McPherson and his staff.

The STMA Field of the Year Award program began in 1992. There are five field types for which awards may be given: Baseball, Football, Soccer, Softball and Sporting Grounds. For each field type, awards may be given in three categories: Professional, College and University, and Schools and Parks. This year there were a total of eleven awards presented.

Tigers Have Strong Presence in Pros
Mizzou baseball has seen plenty of success over the last decade and proof of that is the number of players that the Tigers have sent to the major league. Since 2000, the Tigers have seen 50 players sign professional contracts and 59 Tigers have done so under the direction of Tim Jamieson. Some notable Tigers in the professional ranks include All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers and Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers. Those two along with the likes of Kyle Gibson and AL All-Star Aaron Crow should likely give Mizzou a presence in the major leagues for years to come.

In addition, six Tigers were selected in last year's MLB Draft. Newcomers Brandon Platts and Brett Graves were both drafted out of high school. Platts was a 13th-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates while Graves went in the 26th round to the St. Louis Cardinals. Matt Stites was picked in the 17th round by the San Diego Padres while three more Tigers - Phil McCormick, Conner Mach and Zack Hardoin - were picked on the second day of the draft. McCormick went to the Giants in the 31st round while Mach was picked up in the 46th round by the New York Yankees. Hordoin was taken in the 47th round by the Houston Astros.

On the Air
Once again this year, KTGR ESPN Radio is the radio home of the Tigers, with all of the game being broadcast on 100.5-FM and 1580-AM. The games can also be heard online at KTGR.com. Tex Little is in his 22nd season of calling Tiger Baseball and is joined in the booth by Hunter Mense, who is in his second year as part of the MU broadcast team.

Mizzou Network
Video webcast for all Missouri Baseball home games in 2012 is available at mutigers.com as part of Mizzou All-Access. All-Access is the Tiger fans home for live and archived games for Mizzou Athletics, along with coaches' shows, press conferences and much more. For more information, visit mutigers.com and click on the All-Access icon.

Up Next
The Tigers will continue its homestand with North Dakota on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 13-14) at Taylor Stadium. Game one is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday while the finale will be contested at 4 p.m. Tuesday. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MUTigerBaseball.



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