Missouri Ready to Face Sooners

MUTIGERS.COM Senior Michael Liberto
Senior Michael Liberto

April 8, 2010

Date: April 9-11, 2010
First Pitch: 6:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. / 1 p.m.
Series History: OU leads 145-104-1
Last Year's Series: OU took 2-of-3 in Columbia
Stadium: L. Dale Mitchell Stadium
TV: FSN (Saturday)
Radio: KTGR 100.5-FM / 1580-AM
Live Audio: KTGR.com
Live Video: soonersports.com
Live Gametracker: mutigers.com

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Mizzou returns to Big 12 Conference play with a three-game set this weekend at Oklahoma ... Game one of the weekend will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday in Norman, Okla., with games to follow at 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday ... Saturday's game will be televised on FSN ... Missouri enters the series with a 17-11 overall record after taking wins in both of its midweek contests ... The Tigers are 2-4 in league play ... Oklahoma has a 23-6 record on the year and is 3-4 in the Big 12 ... The Sooners are ranked as high as No. 12 in the national polls ... OU leads the all-time series between the two schools, 145-104-1 ... Following the weekend in Norman, the Tigers will face Missouri State in Springfield, Mo. on Tuesday before hosting Oklahoma State in a three-game series next weekend in Columbia.

Mizzou won both of its two midweek games this past week, taking victories over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (14-6 on Tuesday) and Illinois (7-4 on Wednesday). The Tigers got home runs from junior Jonah Schmidt and redshirt freshman Andreas Plackis on Tuesday in the win over SIUE. Plackis' home run was the first of his career. He drove in five runs on the night. Junior Jeff Scardino turned in seven innings pitched, allowing three runs on seven hits. He struck out three and walked none. Wednesday's victory over Illinois came at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Senior Aaron Senne had three hits in the game and the Missouri bullpen did not allow a run and gave up only two hits in 7.2 innings pitched.

Oklahoma holds a 145-104-1 lead in the all-time series between Mizzou and OU. Last season, Oklahoma won the three-game series played in Columbia, taking the first two games of the series by scores of 2-1 and 7-4, before the Tigers claimed a 5-4 win in the finale. [See page 6 for more on last year's series] The Sooners and Tigers also met at last year's Big 12 Championships, with Missouri taking a 5-4 win in that meeting. The last time the two tames met in Norman, the Tigers took the series winning the first two games of the weekend before dropping game three.

Aaron Senne has had three hits in each of the last three games and carries a career-best 13-game hitting streak into the series with Oklahoma. During the streak, Senne is hitting .569 (29-for-51), with eight doubles, three home runs and 18 RBI. The streak began when he went 2-for 3 in game two of a doubleheader with North Dakota on March 19. He had two hits in each of the first three games of the streak and has had eight multi-hit games. That includes a four-hit game in the series finale with Texas A&M and a 5-for-5 night against Purdue on March 30.

Aaron Senne had back-to-back two-double games on March 28-30 to set a new record for career doubles at Missouri. After doubling in consecutive at-bats against Texas A&M on March 28 to move into a tie for first with Ryan Fry (1995-98) on Mizzou's career doubles, Senne went 5-for-5 with a home run and two doubles against Purdue on March 30 to break the record. He now has 60 doubles, putting him atop that list. Senne has 13 doubles on the year, which ranks second in the Big 12. His .450 average leads the conference. He leads the team with eight home runs on the year and has 34 home runs for his career, which puts him eighth all-time at Missouri. He is one away from moving into a tie with Ryan Stegall (1999-2001) and Dave Silvestri (1986-88) for sixth place. Senne is fourth in school history with 184 RBI. He is also fourth with 256 career hits, which is just 18 behind the career record holder Jayce Tingler (2000-03). Senne returned to Mizzou this season for his senior year, passing up a chance to join his hometown Minnesota Twins organization. A native of Rochester, Minn., he was drafted by Minnesota in last June's Major League Baseball Draft, but chose to return to Missouri. Senne hit his first home run of the season and drove in four against Washington on Feb. 20. At the Auburn Classic, Senne hit three home runs in a span of two games. He homered twice against Auburn on Feb. 27, finishing 3-for-5 with four RBI in the game. The next day, he homered against Boston College.

Missouri is the only team in the Big 12 Conference that has won at least 16 conference games in each of the last three seasons. MU was 19-8 in 2007, then went 16-11 in both 2008 and 2009. The Tigers Big 12 record over the last three years is 51-30, which is second best in the Big 12 behind only Texas (53-27-1).

Freshman Dane Opel was 3-for-4 in the final game of the three-game series with Baylor last weekend, with all three hits being doubles. He is the first Tiger to record a three-double game since Brad Flanders did it against Louisiana-Monroe in 2002. In his last six games, Opel is hitting .550 with four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI. He had multiple hits in five-straight games form March 28-April 4, including three hits against Purdue on March 30, when he drove in four runs. In Big 12 games, Opel has a .529 average to lead the team. He went 4-for-5 in his debut as a Tiger on Feb. 20 against Washington and had a hit in each of the first three games in which he has played.

Junior Brett Nicholas takes a four-game hitting streak into the weekend series at OU and had an eight-game hitting from March 7-19, hitting .522 during the streak with three home runs and 12 RBI. He has recorded a hit in 19 of the 27 games in which he's had an at-bat this year and he has 13 multi-hit games, including the last five. Nicholas has had at least two hits in eight of the last nine games, hitting .415 (17-for-41), with 13 RBI over that stretch. On the year, Nicholas is hitting .363 with five home runs and a team-leading 34 RBI. Earlier in the year, he hit .444 with a slugging percentage of 1.444 in the three games against North Dakota. He had a home run in the series opener, then hit two homers in the first game of a Friday doubleheader. Nicholas hit .625 (5-for-8) in the Xavier series (March 12-14). He opened the series by going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in Friday's extra-inning victory, then drove in two runs on Saturday, finishing 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. On Sunday he was 1-for-2 and drew two walks.

Head Coach Tim Jamieson has utilized a different lineup for all 28 games this season. Five different Tigers have been in the leadoff spot and four have hit cleanup. The spot in the lineup with the least amount of change is third spot where only two players (Aaron Senne 19 times, Brett Nicholas nine times) have been slotted. The seventh spot has seen the most changes, as 10 different Tigers have hit in the seven hole.

Junior Phil McCormick has picked up victories in each of his last two appearances and is 4-0 on the season. In his four wins, McCormick has pitched a total of just 3.1 innings. He has not allowed a run in any of those games. His first victory came on Feb. 21 against New Mexico State. McCormick faced just one batter in that game, forcing a double play to end the top of the 10th inning. The Tigers then scored the game-winning run in the bottom half of that inning to give McCormick the win. His second win came on March 13 against Xavier, when he faced three batters and got two outs in the top of the eighth before the Tigers broke the tie with a pair of runs in their half of the eighth inning. Last Sunday, McCormick faced just two batters and got the final out of the top of the seventh inning. Missouri then scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a lead and go onto victory. On Wednesday, McCormick was the first MU reliever out of the bullpen and pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless baseball. Mizzou took the lead in the third inning while McCormick was still the pitcher of record. He leads the team with 18 appearances on the season and is second on the squad with a 2.31 ERA.

Michael Liberto is one of just two seniors on the 2010 squad and heads into the weekend with a .381 average. Liberto had a nine-game game hitting streak from March 14-23, hitting .412 with a double, a triple and seven RBI during the streak. He has had at least one hit in all but five games in which he has had an at-bat this season and has had multiple hits in 13 of the 27 games he played in this season. Liberto opened up the year by hitting .692 at the Collegiate Cactus Classic in Tucson. He was 9-for-13 in the three games with a double, a triple and three RBI. Liberto matched his career best with four hits in a 4-for-5 performance against Gonzaga in the season opener, with a triple and two RBI.

Nick Tepesch won six games last year, striking out 84 batters in 114.1 innings pitched. He picked up a win against Auburn on Feb. 27, his eighth career victory. He struck out five in 6.1 innings pitched against TCU on March 6, but took a no decision in a 10-inning win by TCU. Tepesch allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on six hits in the game. After allowing a single to open the game, Tepesch retired six of the next seven batters he faced, with the only base runner reaching on an error. In the fifth inning, TCU put one run on the board and had runners on second and third before Tepesch struck out the next two batters to end the inning. In his start against Xavier, he left following just one inning of work after he was hit by a batted ball in the top of the first inning. Tepesch returned against North Dakota on March 19 and struck out eight in six innings pitched. He did not allow a run and gave up just three hits to earn the win and move to 2-0 on the year. In the Big 12 opener, Tepesch turned in a season-long 7.1 innings pitched (two outs shy of his career long eight IP) against Texas A&M, striking out four. Tepesch came within just one out of pitching his first career complete game last Saturday against Baylor when he struck out five in 8.2 innings pitched in the game, but took the loss.

Mizzou will travel to Springfield, Mo. next Wednesday to face Missouri State at Hammons Field at 7 p.m. Next weekend, the Tigers will return to Taylor Stadium for a three-game series with Oklahoma State. Game one against the Cowboys will get underway at 6 p.m. on Friday.



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