Tigers Set For Back-to-Back Games in St. Louis Area



March 31, 2014

Mizzou Baseball (11-12) vs. SIU (14-12), Illinois (14-11)
When   Tuesday - 6:30 p.m. | Wednesday - 6:30 p.m.
Location Tues. - O'Fallon, Mo.| T.R. Hughes Ballpark // Wed. - St. Louis, Mo. | Busch Stadium
Tickets Busch Stadium
Radio KTGR 103.1 FM/1580 AM - Tex Little (PBP), Hunter Mense (Color)
Online Coverage GT - Tuesday | GT - Wednesday
Printable Game Notes Mizzou | Southern Illinois
2014 Season Stats Mizzou | SIU | Illinois
Series History Mizzou and SIU tied, 14-14 // Mizzou leads Illinois, 12-11
Last Meeting SIU won, 2-1, in 2008 // Illinois won, 6-2
Streak SIU - Won 3 // Illinois - Won 1
Social Media @MizzouBaseball,| Mizzou Network 

After winning its first SEC series of the season over No. 20 Auburn, the Mizzou baseball team returns to its home state for a pair of midweek games in the St. Louis area. First, Mizzou will play Southern Illinois at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon, Mo., on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before its annual Braggin' Rights at Busch Stadium game with rival Illinois on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Heading into a pair of neutral site games, the Tigers are 4-4 this season in such contests and have not played a neutral site game March 2 when they played UIC at UALR. Despite being 4-4 in neutral site games this season, the Tigers are 7-3 in games played in the state of Missouri this season, which bodes well for the Tigers heading into the midweek contests.

Mizzou is tied with SIU in the all-time series, 14-14, and have not met since 2008. SIU has won the last two meetings, coming in 2005 and in the 2008 wood bat game, also played at T.R. Hughes Ballpark. Mizzou has not played at T.R. Hughes since defeating Eastern Illinois, 7-5, in 2011. No current Tigers played in that game. Peter Fairbanks will get the ball for Mizzou in his fourth start of the year.

Mizzou had never lost inside Busch Stadium until last season when the Illini defeated the Tigers, 6-2. That snapped a six-game winning streak for Mizzou in the all-time series and it was Coach Jamieson's first ever loss to Illinois, who was 5-0. Mizzou leads the all-time series with Illinois, 12-11 and are 3-1 all-time at Busch Stadium. This is the fourth meeting between Mizzou and Illinois at Busch, with Mizzou winning two of the previous three. Alec Rash will make his first start of the season Wednesday at Busch.

The Mizzou baseball team won its first SEC series of the season despite facing its third ranked opponent in as many weekends, taking two of three from No. 20 Auburn on the road at Plainsman Park. Mizzou also had a midweek doubleheader with UALR rescheduled midweek as cold weather forced that series to be moved to May 6. After being swept at Ole Miss in three close games the previous weekend, Mizzou finally got the clutch hits that it has been looking for all season in a pair of wins to open the Auburn series. It was Mizzou's first series win on the road in conference play since defeating Georgia in two of three games last April and it was the program's first series win over a ranked opponent on the road since 2009 when it took two of three from Kansas State in Manhattan. Fifth year senior Eric Anderson was a key reason why Mizzou was able to take two of three from Auburn as he pitched the Tigers to a 4-3 victory Thursday on ESPNU before tallying three doubles, including the go-ahead, bases-loaded double in the top of the eighth on Friday in a 4-2 win. He became the first Tiger since April 4, 2010, to tally three doubles in a single game and two of them came off of Auburn freshman phenom Keegan Thompson, who had allowed just three doubles all season and led the nation in hits per nine innings at 3.5. Junior closer Keaton Steele earned a pair of saves in those games, not allowing a baserunner in either outing, including in game one of the series when he shut down the Tigers over the final two frames. After Auburn put runners on in every inning, Steele did not allow a runner over the final two innings. He now has an SEC-best seven saves this season

The Salukis come into Tuesday's game at 14-12 overall and will throw Connor McFadden, a freshman righty who is 1-1 with a 6.41 ERA. He has a connection to Mizzou as he is from the same hometown (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) as Mizzou fifth-year senior Eric Anderson. In fact, Anderson and McFadden's older brother are great friends. Anderson will likely lead off the game against McFadden as he has hit in that spot in the last 17 games. McFadden has struggled with command at times this year, walking 23 batters in 19.2 innings.

Parker Osborne leads the Salukis at the plate hitting .329 with nine RBI. Cody Daily (.326), Jake Welch (.299) and Ryan Casillas (.294) are the other top hitters for skipper Ken Henderson. Casillas leads the team with 22 RBI and 10 extra-base hits (seven doubles, three homers).

Mizzou and SIU are tied in the all-time series, 14-14. In a series that dates back to 1973, the two teams will meet for just the fourth time this century. The Salukis have won the last three of those meetings and have owned Mizzou as of late, winning five of the last six. Two of those games came at T.R. Hughes, including a 2-1 decision in 2008 in the old wood-bat game. The Tigers have never defeated SIU at T.R. Hughes. Mizzou's last game at T.R. Hughes came in 2011 and the Tigers won that game, defeating Eastern Illinois, 7-5.

Illinois comes into Wednesday's game at 14-11 overall and are coming off of a series win over Purdue in its Big Ten opener last weekend. The Tigers will face junior John Kravetz, who is 2-1 with a 4.07 ERA in five appearances (all starts). He has given up 31 hits in 24.1 innings but has walked just six and limited his doubles allowed at just two. Jason Goldstein (.383) leads an Illini lineup that is hitting .277 while averaging 4.92 runs per game.

Illinois won last year's meeting at Busch Stadium, 6-2, snapping a six-game winning streak in the all-time series for Mizzou. In all, the Tigers lead the all-time series, 12-11, and are 2-1 in games at Busch Stadium. Tim Jamieson is 5-1 all-time against Illinois.

Wednesday's contest will mark the fourth game in the series between Mizzou and Illinois and the fifth overall appearance at Busch Stadium for Mizzou. In all, Mizzou is 3-1 inside Busch Stadium in history. In 2009, Mizzou scored 19 runs in a 19-6 win over SLU despite falling behind, 3-0, in that game. Mizzou defeated Illinois in 2010 and 2012 before falling in last year's game. 2011's contest was rained out. The Tigers are averaging 8.25 runs per game in four contests at Busch. 12 Tigers on the active roster grew up in the St. Louis area.

Mizzou and Illinois have met in each of the last two years, splitting the last two meetings. Below is a look at some notable pitchers vs. Illinois.

    - Jace James started last year's game at Busch and gave up four runs (three earned) over 5.0 innings, striking out three and walking just one.

    - Breckin Williams threw a scoreless sixth inning in last year's game, allowing just one hit.

    - Ryan Phillips tossed a third of an inning with a strikeout in last year's game.

Tuesday starter Peter Fairbanks and Saturday starter John Miles also pitched in last year's game but will likely not pitch Wednesday. Brett Graves started against Illinois his freshman year but will not pitch Wednesday.

Mizzou has had plenty of hitters face Illinois. Below is a look at some of the notables.

No other active Tigers have hits against Illinois.

Mizzou baseball junior closer Keaton Steele (St. Joseph, Mo.) was named SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week by the league office on Monday (March 31). Steele earned the honor after a pair of dominating performances against No. 21 Auburn, earning a pair of saves to help Mizzou win its first SEC series of the year. The two saves give Steele seven on the season, which is second in the SEC. This is the second time that Steele has been named SEC Pitcher of the Week and he is the second Tiger to earn the award this season, joining righty Brett Graves (St. Charles, Mo.).

Steele's dominance helped Mizzou pick up two wins over a ranked opponent and helped the Tigers clinch their first series win on the road over a ranked opponent since 2009. It snapped a streak of five consecutive series won by No. 21 Auburn dating back to last season.

Under the direction of pitching coach Matt Hobbs, the Tiger hurlers have done a great job limiting walks this season. In fact, the Tigers lead the SEC in walks allowed with just 52, 12 ahead of second-place LSU which has 64. The Tigers rank third nationally and first in the SEC with their miniscule 2.04 BB/9 average. Only Cal State Fullerton (1.29) and Houston (1.53) rank ahead of the Tigers and both teams are in the top-25 in all four of major polls.

Another key to the Tigers' success over the last 17 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 as well, doing so in his last two pitching starts. In his last 17 games Anderson is hitting .343 with an OBP of .410 while slugging .507. He has scored a team-high 15 runs and driven in seven more in that span. He was the first Tiger since 2010 to tally three doubles in a game and has reached base to leadoff a game in 10 of the last 17 games and is reaching base at a .529 clip when leading off an inning.

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 is first in the SEC with 16 appearances and has done a great job. In fact, he is leading the team in opponent batting average at .119. Five of his team-leading 16 appearances have been to get one batter - usually a lefty - out. He leads the Tigers in ERA at 1.50 and has struck out 14 batters against just three walks, allowing five hits in 12.0 IP.

The Tiger pitching staff has been very good at striking out batters while limiting walks. In fact, the Tigers average 3.17 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 3.17 clip.

    YR K-BB - Ratio
    2014: 110-29 - 3.17
    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 2.04 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 2.04 this season. In Mizzou's first inning against Cincinnati, the Tigers had a streak of 32 innings without a walk snapped.

    Yr. BB/9
    2011: 3.70
    2012: 3.24
    2013: 3.11
    2014: 1.82

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, 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. He was 3-1 in Vermont and allowed an ER 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.

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.

Mizzou returns home for Heroes' Weekend at Taylor Stadium as it hosts SEC foe Georgia in a three game-set, beginning Friday at 6 p.m. The baseball program will honor local military, police and firefighters all weekend. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MizzouBaseball.



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