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First Pitch - What You Need to Know
The Mizzou baseball team, which has now won five of its last eight games, including two Big 12 series, will head to Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo., for a showdown with in-state rival Missouri State this Tuesday (May 3) at 6:30 p.m. This will be the Tigers' second meeting with the Bears in as many weeks as the two teams met last Wednesday. Missouri State won that game, 5-2, at Taylor Stadium. The game will air live on MC 22 in Springfield.
Series History The all-time series between the Tigers and Bears is knotted at 21 wins apiece after Missouri State's win over the Tigers last week. Mizzou's last win at Missouri State came in 2008 when it topped its in-state rival, 8-4, in a rain-shortened, six-inning game. The Tigers lost at Missouri State last season and 2009's game was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Tigers Take Series From A&M Mizzou earned a series win over a top-10 opponent after defeating No. 6 Texas A&M in two of three games last weekend. The series win was Mizzou's first over a top-10 program since 2009, when coincidentally, the Tigers also topped Texas A&M, who was ranked No. 3 at the time of that series. In all, Mizzou has done pretty well against top 10 teams this season with three wins. Texas is the only top 10 team that has topped the Tigers in a series this season.
Lineup Change Ignites Offense Heading into the Baylor series two weeks ago, the Tigers made a lineup change that has seemed to turn the club around offensively. Mizzou moved Conner Mach to the leadoff spot and found ways to get CJ Jarvis and Andrew Thigpen into the lineup. Since the change (the last eight games), Mizzou is hitting .280 as a team, which is up from .258 before the change. Mizzou is also slugging .414 as a team with 22 extra-base hits in the last eight games. Mizzou had just 59 extra-base hits in the 36 games before the lineup change. Mizzou is averaging close to six runs per game over the last eight games, nearly a two-run improvement from the 36 games prior to the lineup change.
What Can Brown do for You? Sophomore outfielder Blake Brown has been swinging a hot bat as of late and he had a big week last week. He tallied a pair of home runs last week and led the team in RBI (eight) slugging (.750) and boasted an OBP of .421 on the week. Against No. 6 Texas A&M, he hit .400 with a long ball and seven RBI while slugging .800 and tallying an OBP of .500.
Last Time Out
The Tigers used two big innings to earn their second-straight Big 12 series win, topping Texas A&M in two of three games last weekend. Mizzou began its weekend series by rallying from being down, 6-1, to top the Aggies, 10-9, in a wild game on Friday. Mizzou took the lead at 8-6 after it scored seven runs in the seventh inning, only to surrender the lead in the eighth. But, Mizzou scored two runs without tallying a hit in the ninth inning to complete the walk off win, 10-9. The Tigers then won 9-1 on Saturday as they scored all nine of their runs in a wild sixth inning. The win backed an impressive start from Matt Stites as well. The Tigers dropped a rain-shortened series finale, 3-2, in seven innings on Sunday.
Big Innings Are Key
Mizzou used a pair of huge innings to take the first two games of the Texas A&M series. The Tigers scored seven runs in the seventh inning on Friday, which at the time was the Tigers' most runs scored in a single inning this season. That was until Saturday when they scored nine runs in the sixth inning as 14 batters came to the plate in the frame. What is crazy about those two innings is that the majority of work was done with two outs in each frame. Mizzou scored all seven runs on Friday with two outs and three of the nine runs on Saturday were scored with two outs. The nine-run inning is the Tigers' biggest inning since scoring 10 in the fourth inning against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on March 24, 2010. In fact, the Tigers scored more runs in those innings than they did in 30 total games this season.
A Walk to Remember
The Tigers won the first game of the series on a walk-off walk by senior designated hitter Jonah Schmidt, good for the Tigers' third walk-off win this season - all three of which have come in Big 12 play. What was crazy about the walk-off walk is that Mizzou trailed by a run heading into the ninth inning and scored two runs without registering a hit in the ninth. The first three batters all reached base after being hit by a pitch. Eric Garcia and Schmidt then drew bases-loaded walks to bring in the Tigers' two runs.
Mixing Things Up
As mentioned earlier, Mizzou has been playing much better baseball as of late and it may be due to a lineup change made prior to the Baylor series. Mizzou is averaging nearly two more runs per game over its last eight contests and the main reason has been its ability to tally extra-base hits. Mizzou had 59 extra-base hits in its first 36 games this season, but over the last eight, Mizzou has 22, including six home runs. Mizzou had just nine home runs over the first 36 games. Four players are hitting better than .320 since the lineup change and two of those players - Conner Mach and CJ Jarvis - were directly impacted by the lineup change. Also, Eric Garcia, who moved from second base to first base in the change, is hitting .290 and slugging .548 since the change. Mizzou was 14-22 before the change but has won five of the last eight games since the change.
Lights Out Stites
Junior starter Matt Stites has arguably been the Tigers' top pitcher over the last four weeks. In fact, the righty has won each of his past two Big 12 starts and is 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA over his last four Big 12 starts. He has 30 strikeouts in 29.0 IP in that span and has had two great outings in each of his last two starts, going a combined 15.2 innings with 17 strikeouts and a pair of wins. In fact, when Stites has started this season, the Tigers are 7-4 in those 11 games. With his recent success, Stites now ranks seventh in the Big 12 in innings pitched (72.1), ninth in ERA during league play (2.47), and his 40 strikeouts in Big 12 play have him ranked seventh in the league.
Stites now leads all Tigers starters with a 3.36 ERA and he has given up just one earned run in four of six Big 12 starts this season. Only Texas has tagged Stites for more than three earned runs in a Big 12 start this season.
Mach Leading Off
Tiger junior Conner Mach was one of the key components of the lineup change made before the Baylor series. He had spent much of the season playing third base and batting in the heart of the order, but since then he has moved to left field and is the Tigers' leadoff hitter. The move has paid off as he is hitting a team-best .367 with seven RBI, a .567 slugging percentage and an OBP of .487. He has nearly as many runs in the last eight games as he did in the first 36 and he has nearly matched his amount of extra-base hits in that span.
What Can Brown Do For You?
Blake Brown may have had his best weekend as a Tiger against Texas A&M. He reset his career-high with five RBI in the Tigers' win over the Aggies on Saturday, which capped an impressive weekend that saw him hit .400 with seven RBI and an .800 slugging percentage with a double and a home run. He also boasted an on-base percentage of .500 in the series. Brown now leads the team with 27 RBI and five home runs while slugging a team-best .474. He also leads the team in OBP at .410 and stolen bases with 17. His 28 walks are also second-best on the team.
Brown's great play as of late has him ranked among the Big 12's top players in several different categories as well. He is fifth in the league with 17 stolen bases and is also fifth with 28 walks. In league games only, he is the Big 12's No. 14 hitter with a .328 batting average and he is third in home runs with four while ranking second in slugging at .625. His .429 OBP in league play also ranks him ninth in the Big 12.
Schmidt Continues to Hit in League Play
As good as Blake Brown's play has been as of late, he is still not the Tigers' top hitter in Big 12 play this season. That honor belongs to senior Jonah Schmidt, who is hitting .353 (24-68) in Big 12 play. That clip ranks him seventh in the conference. His .515 slugging percentage in league play has him ranked 10th overall as well.
In Big 12 play, Schmidt has 10 RBI, eight runs and owns an OBP of .397. He also has six extra-base hits, including a pair of home runs. Overall this season, Schmidt is the Tigers' top hitter (.315) and leads the team in doubles (11) while ranking second on the team in RBI (24) and home runs (four). He had arguably the biggest hit of the Texas A&M series, lacing a two-run, two-out single to left field in the seventh inning on Friday, beginning the seven-run rally by the Tigers.
Santo, Champagne Carry Hit Streaks
A pair of Tigers carry notable hit streaks into Tuesday's game with Missouri State. Jesse Santo has already matched his season high, hitting safely in the Tigers' last five games. Should he get a hit on Tuesday, he will reset his season-long streak with hits in six straight games. Brannon Champagne owns a four-game hit streak heading into Tuesday. His season long is eight games.
Say Hello to CJ
Freshman infielder CJ Jarvis, like Conner Mach, was a big part of the lineup change that has the Tigers playing much better as of late. In fact, the idea behind moving Mach to left field was to get Jarvis more playing time at third, due in large part to his defense. But it has been his bat that has made the noise since the change. He is hitting .321 in the eight games since the switch and has three RBI and two runs scored out of the nine hole. He also has a pair of doubles in that span as well.
Garcia Homers in Two Straight
Although Blake Brown stole many of the headlines last week, sophomore Eric Garcia had a huge week as well. In fact, Garcia led the team in batting (.368), runs (five) and on-base percentage (.455) last week. He also launched a pair of home runs in the Tigers' two midweek games against Eastern Illinois and Missouri State. He is the second Tigers to homer in back-to-back games this season and it is the first time in his career that he has homered in back-to-back games. In the last 11 games, Garcia is hitting .317 and seems to have fully recovered from an .083 start in his first 10 games.
Walk This Way
After winning Friday's game on a pair of bases-loaded walks, it is clear that the Tigers have been a patient team at the plate all season. In fact, a pair of Tigers rank among the league's top five in bases on balls this season. Eric Garcia ranks fourth with 29 while Blake Brown is just one back of him in fifth with 28. Mizzou and Texas Tech are the only two schools with two players ranked in the league's top five. Garcia's 12 walks in league play rank him fourth as well. As a team, Mizzou has drawn 176 walks this season, which ranks it fourth in the Big 12. Texas Tech leads the league with 224.
Grand Theft Base
With two steals over the weekend, the Tigers slipped to third place in the Big 12 with 81 steals this season. Texas Tech leads the league with 83 while Kansas State is second with 82. Individually, a pair of Tigers rank in the Big 12's top 10 in stolen bases. Blake Brown leads the team with 17, ranking him fifth in the league, while Eric Garcia has 13 steals on the season, ranking him eighth in the league.
Four other Tigers have been impressive on the base paths as well this season. Brannon Champagne has 11 steals while Conner Mach, Jesse Santo and Jonah Schmidt each have nine, showing that the steals for Mizzou have been a true team approach this season. Mach matched the school record with four steals against Le Moyne earlier this season, the most steals by a Tiger since 1956.
McCormick Continues to Shine
Senior lefty Phil McCormick has been the Tigers' most consistent arm this season and he has emerged as one of the top relievers in the entire Big 12 Conference this season. Not only is he reliable (he leads the league with 27 appearances this season), but he has shut down nearly every team that he has faced this season. In league play, McCormick ranks seventh in ERA at 2.11 and he also ranks fifth in opponent batting average during league play, holding hitters to a .194 clip. Overall, he is 14th in the league with his team-leading 3.18 ERA and fifth with his .213 opponent batting average. He also ranks ninth with four saves.
Anderson Returning to Form
Sophomore Eric Anderson earned his second weekend start this season in the series-opener against Texas A&M. It was his fourth start since coming off of shoulder surgery last season. The righty has been pitching very well as of late and his last start was a reflection of that. He lasted a season-long 6.0 innings and threw 90 pitches, both of which were highs since coming back from shoulder surgery last season. Having Anderson back in the weekend rotation has been huge for Mizzou as they are now 2-0 in the games in which he has started on weekends, both of which were Big 12 series. The first win came at Baylor (April 21)and the next was against No. 6 Texas A&M last Friday.
Tigers' Big Z
Freshman southpaw Rob Zastryzny has emerged as the Tigers' Friday starter as he boasts a 3.90 ERA this season. His best start of the season came against Oklahoma when he threw 8.0 innings without allowing a single earned run against one of the league's top offenses. He is second on the team in strikeouts (53) and ranks second in innings pitched (64.2). His two wins on the year also rank him second on the team. He threw 7.2 innings and allowed just two earned runs on five hits at OSU in another quality start against a good offense in league play. He threw 5.1 innings against Texas A&M, striking out seven and allowing just two earned runs.
Over the past several weeks, the Tiger starting lineup has appeared to become more concrete and one thing is apparent when looking at that lineup - the Tigers are young. Mizzou has started as many as seven sophomores as position players this season and the Tigers' Friday starter is a true freshman. Seven sophomores have seen regular playing time this season and six are considered starters. Six of the Tigers' top eight hitters this season are sophomores and Mizzou starts just two senior position players this season - Jesse Santo and Jonah Schmidt. Mizzou also started freshmen CJ Jarvis and Dillon Everett regularly this season.
Jamieson to Lead Team USA
Mizzou head coach Tim Jamieson will lead the 2011 Collegiate National Team, as announced by USA Baseball back in November. He will be joined by pitching coach Rob Walton (Oral Roberts) and assistant coaches Dave Van Horn (Arkansas) and Scott Stricklin (Kent State). Jamieson and Walton made their Team USA debuts together on the 2005 Collegiate National Team coaching staff, serving as an assistant coach and the pitching coach, respectively, for manager Steve Smith of Baylor. Van Horn and Stricklin will both be wearing the red, white and blue for the first time.
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 48 players sign professional contracts and 57 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. Kinsler has been one of the most underrated players in the MLB over the past several seasons and maybe had his best year in 2009, slugging 31 home runs while driving in 86 runs and swiping 31 bags, doing so in just 144 games. Scherzer went 12-11 last year with a 3.50 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 195.2 innings pitched. Those two along with the likes of Kyle Gibson and Aaron Crow should likely give Mizzou a presence in the major leagues for years to come.
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 21st season of calling Tiger Baseball and is joined in the booth by Hunter Mense, who is in his first year as part of the MU broadcast team.
Video webcast for all Missouri Baseball home games in 2011 is available at mutigers.com as part of Mizzou All-Access. All-Access is the Tiger fans home to 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.
Mizzou will resume Big 12 play this weekend as it heads to Manhattan, Kan., in what is shaping up to be a crucial Big 12 series with the Kansas State Wildcats. Mizzou sits just a game-and-a-half back of K-State for eighth place in the league. The top eight teams in the league qualify for the Big 12 Tournament, making the weekend series a crucial one for the Tigers' chances. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MUTigerBaseball.