Tigers Set For Midweek Contests at Big League Ballparks



April 21, 2014

Mizzou Baseball (17-21, 6-12 SEC) vs. Wichita State (21-18), Illinois (21-14)
When   Tuesday - 7 p.m. | Wednesday - 6:30 p.m.
Location Tuesday - Kansas City, Mo. | Kauffman Stadium // Wednesday - St. Louis, Mo.| Busch Stadium
Tickets Kauffman | Busch
Radio KTGR 103.1 FM/1580 AM - Tex Little (PBP), Hunter Mense (Color)
Online Coverage GT - Tuesday | GT - Wednesday| Stat Broadcast
Printable Game Notes Mizzou
2014 Season Stats Mizzou | Wichita State | Illinois
Series History Mizzou Trails WSU, 5-4 // Mizzou Leads Illinois, 12-11
Last Meeting Mizzou lost to WSU, 3-0, in 2004 // Illinois beat Mizzou, 6-2, last year
Streak WSU - Won 3 // Illinois - Won 1
Social Media @MizzouBaseball,| Mizzou Network 

Mizzou baseball will look to rebound from being swept at home for the first time this season as it heads to a pair of midweek games at Major League stadiums, beginning Tuesday with a 7 p.m. tilt against Wichita State at Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Royals. Mizzou will then renew its rivalry with Illinois at Busch Stadium Wednesday in a 6:30 p.m. start.

Tuesday's game at Kauffman Stadium is the College Baseball Hall of Fame Classic and will pit Mizzou and Wichita State against one another for the first time since 2004. All-time, Mizzou is 0-4 at Kauffman Stadium with all four previous meetings coming against Kansas. The last time Mizzou played at Kauffman was 2011 when they lost, 7-1, to Kansas on April 6. Ticket sales from Tuesday's game will benefit the College Baseball Hall of Fame. Sophomore righty Alec Rash will get the start for Mizzou, his first of the season.

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. Sophomore righty Peter Fairbanks will get the start Wednesday at Busch.

This week's games will mark the final neutral site games of the regular season for the Tigers. So far this season, Mizzou is 4-5 in such contests. The Tigers dropped their most recent neutral site game to Southern Illinois on April 1. Wichita State is 0-2 in neutral site games and Illinois is 2-2.

The Tigers welcomed No. 22 Mississippi State to Taylor Stadium and were swept in the three-game set. Two of the three games went to extra-innings, but Mizzou dropped both affairs in the 11th frame. The Tigers first lost, 3-2, Friday night despite great pitching performances from junior righties Brett Graves and Keaton Steele, who combined to throw 11.0 innings, allowing just nine hits and one walk as Mississippi State managed just 11 base runners in the game off of Tiger pitching, but two hits in the 11th inning led to the game-winning run for Mississippi State. The Tigers stranded 12 men on base in that loss. Saturday's loss again was a close game as starter John Miles went 6.1 innings, his longest outing in nearly a month, but the bullpen allowed three late runs in the top of the seventh as MSU pulled away for a 6-2 win. Sunday's game again went extra-innings as Breckin Williams blew a save in the ninth inning as the Tigers carried a 7-5 lead into the final frame. MSU then added a pair of runs on a jam-shot single in the 11th as MSU earned the sweep

Mizzou has played one of the toughest schedules in the country to date and the latest NCAA RPI rankings back that statement up. In fact, Mizzou has played an SEC-high 23 games against RPI top-50 teams, posting a 9-14 record in those contests. More than half of the Tigers' wins have come against RPI top-50 teams. Mizzou is also on pace to play 32 games against teams ranked in the RPI top 50. Florida is the only other SEC team to play 23 games against RPI top-50 competition.

The Shockers swept SIU this past weekend, with the Friday night and Sunday afternoon games being called early for the 10-run rule. Daniel Kihle leads the team in batting average at .405, playing in 20 games this season and was recently named MVC Player of the Week. Casey Gillaspie is the Shockers most consistent hitter, starting in all 39 games and hitting .401 on the season. Pitcher AJ Ladwig leads the team with a 1.32 ERA. Sam Tewes owns a 6-2 record on the year, the best of any Shocker pitcher. Lefty Kris Gardner will get the start for WSU. He is 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA in seven appearances, including four starts.

Mizzou and Wichita State have met nine times over the years and the Shockers hold a 5-4 lead in those nine games. WSU has also claimed the most recent meeting between the two team, a 3-0 win in NCAA action during the 2004 season. In the opening game of the 2004 Fayetteville Regional, current Minnesota Twin Mike Pelfrey tossed 8.2 innings, allowing just four hits while striking out 14 Tiger batters while walking just three. He threw 138 pitches in that game. Danny Hill started for Missouri and was also good, allowing just eight hits and two earned runs over 7.0 innings, but it wasn't good enough to match Pelfrey's performance. Wichita State has won five of the last six meetings as Tim Jamieson is 1-5 all-time vs. the Shockers with two of those meeting coming in NCAA Regionals.

Mizzou last played at Kauffman in 2011 and lost to archrival Kansas, 7-1, as the Tigers were limited to just one hit. Mizzou played four games against KU at Kauffman in the series history and Mizzou is 0-4 in those meetings. Mizzou has never won at Kauffman Stadium.

The Illinois baseball team is coming off a weekend series sweep over Big Ten opponent, Penn State. The Fighting Illini were led by this week's Big Ten Freshman of Week, Ryne Roper, after scoring three runs with three RBI, and a .417 average last week. The freshman is batting .252 on the season starting 32 of Illini's 35 games. The Fighting Illini are batting .278 as a team just a few points higher than Mizzou's team batting average for the season at .260. Illinois outscored Penn State 21-12.

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 are 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.

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.

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 91, 14 ahead of second-place South Carolina which has 105. The Tigers rank ninth nationally and first in the SEC with their miniscule 2.39 BB/9 average. Coincidentally, Illinois checks in at fifth nationally in walks per nine at 2.25 as Wednesday's game should not feature a lot of free passes.

Aside from ranking ninth nationally in walks per nine innings, the Tigers also rank in the top-15 in strikeout-walk ratio. In fact, Hobbs' hurlers rank sixth nationally at 2.97, a mark that ranks second in the SEC, trailing only South Carolina.

Mizzou junior closer Keaton Steele ranks 17th nationally and second in the SEC with his nine saves this season. He is just three back of the Mizzou single season record (12). In his nine saves, Steele has been virtually untouchable. He has a 0.00 ERA in 15.1 innings with a 0.78 WHIP in those nine outings.

Another key to the Tigers' success over the last 29 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 six pitching starts. In his last 27 games in the leadoff spot, Anderson is hitting .327 with an OBP of .420 while slugging .518. He has scored a team-high 21 runs and driven in 14 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 18 of 27 games as a leadoff hitter and is reaching base at a .549 clip when leading off an inning.

Over his last five starts, Eric Anderson has been dominating opposing pitchers as he has arguably been the best Sunday starter in the SEC. Over his last three starts he owns a 29-3 strikeout-walk ratio and it is even better over his last five outings at 41-6. He has had quality starts in each of his last five outings as well. Anderson ranks first in the SEC and 21st nationally in K-BB ratio.

Junior righty Brett Graves seems to be helping his draft stock with every start this season. After tossing 7.0 innings, allowing just six hits and two runs last Friday against No. 22 Mississippi State, he has tossed at least seven innings in seven of his 10 starts. He did not walk a batter against Mississippi State, marking the first time he has done that since Feb. 22 at Wake Forest. He owns a streak of seven straight starts with one or less walks and is walking just 1.6 batters per nine, the best mark of his career.

Another key cog to the Tiger lineup has been the re-emergence of Logan Pearson. After missing 15 games with a hamstring injury, Pearson has been one of the Tigers' top hitters since returning to the lineup. In fact, in the 20 games he has played since returning to the lineup, he is hitting a team-best .348 with seven extra-base hits (six doubles, one triple) and is reaching base at a .456 clip in that span. Only Eric Anderson has put up better power numbers for the Tigers than Pearson in that span as well. Last weekend against No. 22 Mississippi State, Pearson was on fire, batting .429 with two runs, two doubles and a triple in three games. He slugged .714 and had an OBP of .467. He tallied a career-best four hits, including two doubles, in the series finale on Sunday, also scoring a pair of runs in the losing effort.

The Tiger pitching staff has been very good at striking out batters while limiting walks. In fact, the Tigers average 2.97 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 2.97 clip.

    YR K-BB - Ratio
    2014: 270-91 - 2.97
    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 2.39 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 2.39 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: 2.39

Junior righty Brett Graves was named the No. 22 collegiate prospect in the nation by PerfectGame.org. He is the No. 4 SEC player on the list, following Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede, LSU's Aaron Nola and Kentucky's AJ Reed.

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.

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 of 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 will head to SEC East leader Florida this weekend for a three-game series. The Saturday game will air live on Fox Sports Midwest and Fox Sports South. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTiger.com and follow the team on twitter @MizzouBaseball.



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