Tigers Host No. 17 Vols in SEC Opener This Weekend



March 12, 2014

Mizzou Baseball (8-7) vs. #17 Tennessee (15-1)
When   Friday - 6 p.m. | Saturday - 2 p.m. | Sunday - 1 p.m.
Location Columbia, Mo.| Simmons Field at Taylor Stadium
Tickets Click Here
TV None
Radio KTGR 103.1 FM/1580 AM - Tex Little (PBP), Hunter Mense (Color)
Online Coverage GT - Friday | GT - Saturday | Sunday | Stat Broadcast
Printable Game Notes Mizzou
2014 Season Stats Mizzou | Tennessee
Series History Tennessee leads, 2-1
Last Meeting Mizzou won, 14-6, in Knoxville
Streak Mizzou - Won 1
Social Media @MizzouBaseball,| Mizzou Network 

After winning five of its last six games, the Mizzou baseball team will close an eight-game homestand as it hosts No. 17 Tennessee in its SEC opening series this weekend at Taylor Stadium. A great pitching matchup is on tap for 6 p.m. Friday night when Mizzou's Brett Graves (2-1, 0.98 ERA) will face off against UT's Nick Williams (3-1, 1.85 ERA).

Mizzou and Tennessee have played just one series in history and that came last year in Knoxville with UT claiming two of three from the Tigers. Despite losing the series, Mizzou has won the most recent meeting between the two teams, a 14-6 decision in game two of a Saturday doubleheader last year. Tennessee comes into the weekend at 15-1 overall and ranked No. 17 nationally.

Coming into the game, Mizzou senior infielder Kendall Keeton is on fire, hitting .520 over the Tigers' last six games (five wins). He has scored six runs and reached base in 16 of 28 plate appearances in that span and stolen three bags as well.

The Tigers have scored in the first inning in five of their last six games, winning all five in which they have done so. When scoring in the first, Mizzou is 7-0 this season. The Tigers are also outscoring opponents, 13-4, in the first inning this season.

Mizzou worked around a 1-hour, 48-minute rain delay to complete a doubleheader sweep of Alcorn State on Tuesday at Taylor Stadium. The Tigers exploded for 11 runs, 15 hits and two homers in an 11-5 game one win. In game two, Mizzou ran out to a 2-0 lead before the rain came with the teams through 3.5 innings. After it was 81 degrees at first pitch, the temperature was 41 following the rain and 40 MPH winds blowing straight in limited offense from there as Mizzou won, 5-0. Below are notes on the midweek series.

Tennessee has been one of the biggest suprises in college baseball this season, checking in at 15-1 overall and ranked as high as No. 17 nationally. After missing the SEC Tournament a year ago, the Vols have gotten off to a fast start and are coming off of a series win over college baseball powerhouse Arizona State last weekend. The Vols own a staff ERA of 2.47, led by Friday night starter Nick Williams, who is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA. Andy Cox is the first arm out of the bullpen as he leads the team with nine appearances and a 0.75 ERA in 24.0 innings as he has arguably been their top potcher. He is 2-0 on the team with 19 Ks against just five walks in 24.0 IP. Frosh Nick Senzel, reigning SEC Player of the Week, leads the offense.

Tennessee took two of three from the Tigers in Knoxville last season as the pitching staff struggled to slow the Vols bats. Mizzou was shutout on Friday night, 4-0, despite a gritty pitching performance from future second round pick Rob Zastryzny. The Tigers then blew a ninth inning lead and lost 6-7 the next day in game one of a doubleheader before coming back to throttle the Vols, 14-6, in the series finale. Below are notables for current Tigers against the Vols.

Mizzou is 5-1 over its last six games and a big reason why has been the performance of the Tiger pitching staff. In fact, the Tigers have a staff ERA of 1.67 and a WHIP of just 0.98 as they have dominated the competition. In that span, the Tiger hurlers have struck out 48 against just 10 walks and own a miniscule 1.67 walks per nine inning average. In the last six games, the Tiger pitchers have allowed just 10 extra-base hits and limited batters to a .212 batting average. The Tiger pitchers struck out 17 Alcorn State batters against just four walks in the midweek games as they continue to do a good job filling up the zone.

Another key to the Tigers' success over the last six games has been the emergence of a leadoff hitter as fifth-year senior Eric Anderson has been very good at the top of the order. He became the first player under Tim Jamieson to hit in the leadoff spot while starting a game on the mound on Sunday as well. In his last six games Anderson is hitting .333 with an OBP of .393. He has scored seven runs and driven in two more in that span. He also hit his first Division I homer against Alcorn State and has reached base safely in eight straight.

Junior righty Brett Graves has put together as impressive of a three-game streak as there is in the country this season in his last three starts. He moved to the Friday night spot last week against Southern Miss and did not dissapoint, going 8.0 innings, allowing five hits, one run with just one walk and a career-best eight strikeouts. He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 29 batters as he got ahead all night. He earned his second win in the outing., but did have his 16.1 shutout inning streak snapped in the game.

Over his last three starts, Graves has been even better than his season numbers. He has gone 23.0 innings, allowing just 10 hits, two walks and one run while striking out 20. He has not allowed an extra-base hit in that span and is limiting batters to .125 hitting in those three starts. He has also not allowed an extra-base hit in 27.0 consecutive innings - since the first inning of his first start of the season. He has a 0.57 WHIP over his last three starts.

- 2nd - IP - 27.2
- 4th - 2B allowed - 1
- 8th - OPP BA - .144
- 10th - Ks - 23
- 13th - ERA - 0.98
- 13th - BB allowed - 4
- 13th - R allowed - 4

Tiger righty Keaton Steele has emerged as the team's closer, giving them a true closer for the first time in several seasons. He already has four saves this season, just eight shy of the school record (12 by Ryan Stegall in 2000). He now has six saves in his career at Mizzou, three back of 11th all-time at Mizzou as well. He has just one extra-base hit in 14.1 innings and owns a WHIP of 0.91 and a perfect ERA as he has yet to allow an earned run. Currently, Steele is tied for third in the SEC with his four saves this season and leads the SEC in games finished while ranking third with his nine appearances.

So far this season, pitching coach Matt Hobbs has relied heavily on sophomore lefty Austin Tribby as the team's lefty specialist. He leads the team and ranks first in the SEC with 10 appearances and has done a great job. In fact, he is leading the team in opponent batting average at .125. Five of his team-leading 10 appearances have been to get one batter - usually a lefty - out.

Despite being moved from Friday to Saturday last week, junior righty John Miles had a good start in a 6-4 win over Southern Miss. He allowed just five hits over 5.1 innings and just a pair of earned runs while striking out a career-best six. His 5.1 IP was his longest outing since May 12, 2012, against Memphis.

Senior righty Eric Anderson moved back into the weekend rotation last weekend. He went 4.0 innings, allowing just two runs and four hits while striking out four, matching his most Ks since Feb. 24, 2012. It was his longest outing since May 17, 2013, in a win over Kentucky as he continues to recover from an elbow issue which flared up at the beginning of the season.

The Tiger pitching staff has been very good at striking out batters while limiting walks. In fact, the Tigers average 3.79 strikeouts per every walk. The strikeout-walk ratio has been a staple of pitching Coach Matt Hobbs as he works with Tiger pitchers. Since he took over the Tiger pitchers in 2011, the Tigers have seen their strikeout -to-walk ratio improve from 1.92 in 2011 to 2.25 last season and seen even better this year with the 3.79 clip. Below is a look at the numbers under Coach Hobbs.

    YR K-BB - Ratio

    2014: 110-29 - 3.79
    2013: 342-152 - 2.25
    2012: 352-193 - 1.82
    2011: 409-213 - 1.92
When looking more into the Tiger pitching staff this season, it is easy to see where the point of emphasis from Coach Hobbs has been placed - limiting walks. So far this season, Mizzou is averaging just 1.95 walks per nine innings, by far the best clip during Hobbs' four-year tenure at Mizzou. In fact, since his first year, he has seen that number shrink from 3.70 in 2011 to 3.11 last season and the minuscule 1.95 this season. In Mizzou's first inning against Cincinnati, the Tigers had a streak of 32 innings without a walk snapped. Brett Graves has been one of the Tigers' best at not walking batters with just four in 27.2 innings. He went 13.2 consecutive innings without allowing a walk earlier this season. The Tigers are 10th nationally and second in the SEC in BB/9. Mizzou has also walked just 25 batters this season, the second-best clip in the SEC

    Yr. BB/9
    2011: 3.70
    2012: 3.24
    2013: 3.11
    2014: 1.95
Another trend developing is the Tigers' ability to score in the sixth inning this season. The Tigers have plated 17 runs in the sixth, their most in any inning.

In Missouri's two wins midweek, the Tigers scored early to jump on top of Alcorn State, continuing a recent trend for the Tiger bats. In fact, Mizzou has scored in the first inning in five of the last six games, winning all five of those games. In fact, Mizzou has scored in the first inning in seven games this season and owns a perfect 7-0 mark in those contests.

Although the Tiger bats have struggled at times this season, they still have 10+ hits in seven games - it took Mizzou 33 contests a year ago to have seven 10+ hit games. Also, in Mizzou's 15-3 win over Radford, several milestones fell. Mizzou tallied 10 runs in the sixth inning in its 15-3 win over Radford, marking the first time that the Tigers have tallied a 10-run inning since March 24, 2010, against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Mizzou's 15 runs vs. Radford are the most for a Tiger team since March 14, 2012, when Mizzou plated 21 runs against North Dakota.

Despite the 18-32 mark last season, the Tiger pitching was as good as it has been since 2006 under fourth-year pitching coach Matt Hobbs. In fact, Mizzou had a 3.87 ERA last season, the best since the 2006 team posted a 3.36 ERA. The 3.87 ERA was better than five of the Tigers' eight NCAA Regional teams in the last 11 seasons.

This year, the Mizzou baseball roster features five players that have played together for quite sometime. Brett Graves, Case Munson, Jake Ivory, Brett Peel and Steven Diel all played high school ball for Francis Howell in St. Charles, Mo., winning a state championship together during their senior season.

Junior righty John Miles led Mizzou with a 2.35 ERA coming out of the bullpen last season, but as if that weren't impressive enough, he really turned heads this summer. Playing his summer ball in the NECBL, Miles put together an outstanding season. He set a league record with a .135 opponent batting average and started the league's annual All-Star Game, alongside Tiger teammate Brett Graves. He led all starters in the league with a 1.20 ERA. He closed his summer with a complete game, one-run outing in which he helped his Vermont Mountaineers to a 3-1 win. He was 3-1 in Vermont and allowed an earned run in just three of his starts.

The 2014 season marks the 60-year Anniversary of Mizzou's 1954 team that won the College World Series for the school's first ever National Championship in baseball. Under legendary Tiger head coach John 'Hi' Simmons, the 1954 team was 22-4 overall and went 5-1 at the College World Series, defeating Rollins, 4-1, to claim the Championship. Mizzou also defeated Lafayette, UMass, Oklahoma State and Michigan State at that College World Series.

As the Mizzou baseball program continues its transition into the SEC, the Mizzou Department of Athletics made a major commitment to the program by spending $4 million on a new facility, including a new locker room, coaches office and improved seating at Taylor Stadium. The new facility will be one of the best baseball facilities in the nation and will give players all they need to succeed on site. A state-of-the-art lockerroom, modeled after many big league lockerrooms, along with a team room, an auditorium and training room have been added on site at Taylor Stadium. Also, increased bleachers have been added down the LF line and the old bucket seats have been replaced with new seat-back stadium seats in order to help with the comfort level of the fans.

Former Mizzou standout Aaron Crow was inducted into the Mizzou Athletics Hall of Fame this year. Crow established himself as one of the most feared pitchers in the nation during the late 2000s in a time of great success for Tiger baseball under Head Coach Tim Jamieson. During his junior season of 2008, Crow was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the game, as he won the Roger Clemens Award, given annually to the top pitcher in college baseball, in addition to being named a consensus 1st-Team All-American. His stats in 2008 were stellar - a perfect 13-0 record, an earned run average of 2.35, four complete-game shutouts and 127 strikeouts (10.65 per nine innings). Had a 43-inning scoreless streak during the 2008 season.

When Josh Lester and Ryan Phillips committed to play baseball at Mizzou, they were unaware that they had a unique connection. In fact, both players played in the 2006 Little League World Series and Lester's team won the tournament. Lester and Phillips never met in the series as the two were in different pools, but both remember watching the other play. Lester's team that won the Little League World Series kept that core group of players intact and went on to win three Georgia State Championships in high school.

Mizzou will be televised 11 times in 2014, including four times through the SEC/ESPN deal.

Once again this year, KTGR ESPN Radio is the radio home of the Tigers, with all of the game being broadcast on 103.1-FM, 100.5-FM and 1580-AM. The games can also be heard online at KTGR.com. Tex Little is in his 24th season of calling Tiger Baseball and is joined in the booth by Hunter Mense, who is in his fourth year as part of the MU broadcast team.

Video webcast for all Missouri Baseball home games in 2014 is available at mutigers.tv as part of the Mizzou Network. Mizzou Network is the Tiger fan's home for live and archived games, along with coaches' shows, press conferences and more. For more information, visit mutigers.tv and click on the Mizzou Network icon.

The Tigers continue SEC play next weekend, making its first trip to Ole Miss since the 2009 NCAA Oxford Regional. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MizzouBaseball.



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