May 18, 2013
FIRST PITCH - What You Need to Know
The Mizzou baseball team, in its inaugural season as members of the Southeastern Conference, has qualified as the No. 12 seed in the SEC Tournament. The Tigers open action against defending champion, fifth-seeded Mississippi State on Tuesday following the 4:30 p.m. game between eight-seed Florida and nine-seed Texas A&M. The game will likely get underway around 8 p.m.
Hoover In the First Year Mizzou, picked to finish last in the SEC in preseason poll by the league's coaches, has qualified for the SEC Tournament as the No. 12 overall seed in its first year as a member of the conference. The Tigers put together a 10-20 mark in SEC play and actually have more SEC wins (10) than non-conference wins (eight) this season.
Tigers in League Tournaments Obviously, 2013 marks the first time that Mizzou will play in the SEC Tournament, but over the years Mizzou built a reputation as a great team in postseason conference tournaments. In fact, Mizzou has qualified for its league tournament every year since 2002 and has a very impressive 9-3 mark in its last three conference tournaments (of course all three came in the Big 12). The 9-3 mark includes two runs to the Big 12 Championship game, including the league title in its final year as a Big 12 member last season. In all, the Tigers are 25-23 in conference tournament games under head coach Tim Jamieson.
Rob Z Gets the Ball Tuesday For head coach Tim Jamieson, the decision on a starter for Tuesday's game was a simple choice. After Mizzou clinched a spot in the tournament on Friday, it got the chance to rest ace Rob Zastryzny. This season, Zastryzny is a modest 2-9, but owns a 3.64 ERA in a team-high 81.2 innings pitched while striking out 75 batters against just 22 walks. He has 29 Friday night starts in his career.
But the big thing for Zastryzny is his ability to perform at his best when the lights are the brightest. He has pitched in two Big 12 Championship games, starting one, and he has pitched in five postseason games with Mizzou holding a 4-1 record in those games. The only Mizzou loss in a postseason game in which Zastryzny pitched was an 8-7 loss to Texas A&M in the 2011 Big 12 Championship Game. In his career, Zastryzny has a 3.41 ERA in 29.0 innings pitched while fanning 18 against just six walks. On full rest in the postseason, Zastrzyny has a 1.71 ERA in 21.1 innings with 15 strikeouts and four walks.
Last Time Out
Mizzou earned its third SEC series win of the season after taking two of three games from Kentucky over the weekend at Taylor Stadium. Mizzou won, 4-2, Thursday night as the pitching staff allowed just five Wildcat hits as sophomore Brett Graves earned his second win of the season. On Friday, Mizzou needed either a win or a Tennessee loss to clinch a spot in Hoover and as it turned out, it got both. Mizzou rallied from down 3-0 to win, 4-3. Keaton Steele hit a go-ahead solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning before coming in to earn the save in the ninth, his second in as many days. His heroics backed a great start by Eric Anderson, who went a career-high 7.1 innings, allowing just three earned runs on the one-year anniversary of Tommy John surgery. Mizzou then lost 5-1 on Saturday after electing to throw Rob Zastryzny on Tuesday instead of Saturday.
Mizzou and Mississippi State have met just once and that meeting was a 10-5 decision in favor of the Bulldogs in the 2003 Starkville Regional. The Bulldogs eliminated the Tigers from the NCAA Tournament with that win. Former Tiger Ryan Rallo drove in three runs for the Tigers that day and current big leaguer Ian Kinsler scored a pair of runs in the loss. Nick Admire made the start for the Tigers and went 4.2 innings, allowing four runs (only two earned) while striking out five.
A Cohen Connection
Heading into Tuesday's game, it is not hard to overlook the fact that current Mississippi State head coach John Cohen was an assistant coach at Mizzou, spending seven seasons in the Tiger dugout. He coached under legendary Mizzou coach Gene McArtor (who is being honored as Mizzou's SEC Legend this week) from 1992 and under Tim Jamieson from 1995-97 as the team's primary hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. In 1996, Jamieson and Cohen led Mizzou to a 39-19 overall record while taking the team to its first NCAA Regional in five years. In all, Cohen coached in 332 games at Mizzou, winning 186 of those games from 1992-97.
Conference Tournament Stats
In each of the last two seasons, Mizzou has advanced to the Big 12 Championship game, winning in 2012. The deep runs in the tournaments mean that Mizzou has plenty of players with experience in conference tournaments. Notable stat lines are listed below.
Rob Z Approaching Career Top-10 in Strikeouts
Dane Opel (seven games) - 7-for-27 (.259), 8 runs, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 6 RBI
Brannon Champagne (five games) - 7-for-22 (.318), 4 runs, 2 RBI, 1 walk
Dillon Everett (five games) - 3-for-16 (.188), 2 runs, 2 RBI, 1 walk
Scott Sommerfeld (four games) - 5-for-14 (.357), 2 RBI, 1 walk
Michael McGraw (four games) - 7-for-15 (.467), 3 runs, 2 doubles, 4 RBI
Eric Anderson (1-0) - 2 starts, 3.60 ERA in 10.0 IP, 13 hits, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Rob Zastryzny (1-0) - 4 games/3 starts, 23.0 IP, 23 hits, 9 earned runs, four walks, 13 strikeouts
John Miles (0-0) - 1 game, 3.38 ERA, 2.2 IP, 1 hit, 1 earned runs, four walks, two strikeouts
Junior lefty Rob Zastryzny
struck out four Alabama batters in his last start on May 12 in a 7-6 defeat, moving his career total to 221 over his three years. That puts him just two strikeouts shy of cracking the all-time top-10 in career strikeouts in Mizzou history. In his career, Zastryzny has started 29 Friday night games and has been the Tigers' Friday night guy at times since his freshman year. Once he cracks the top 10, his name will stand alongside such Tiger greats as Max Scherzer
, Aaron Crow
, Kyle Gibson
and Nick Tepesch
Opel Leads Nation in Outfield Assists
Senior outfielder Dane Opel is turning heads with spectacular defensive plays this season. He has landed at #1 on ESPN's Sportscenter Top Plays for robbing a home run from Texas A&M's Troy Stein, but it has been his arm that has been drawing most of the attention from opposing coaches as he leads the nation with 14 outfield assists. Opel threw out another runner at the plate against Kentucky last Saturday. Seven of his 14 outfield assists have gunned runners at the plate this season. Below is the list of the top five nationally.
Opel - 14
Sommerfeld Makes Impact
Jeff Kremer (Duke) - 9
Seth Miller (Florida State) - 9
Michael Bozarth (SLU) - 9
Trever Allen (Arizona State) - 8
Senior outfielder Scott Sommerfeld
came into the season as the Tigers' top returning hitter (.312) from a season ago, but struggled early. But as of late, Sommerfeld has energized the Tiger lineup. In fact, in games that Sommerfeld has started in left field this season, the Tigers are 7-3 overall. After sitting much of the season, Sommerfeld was put back into the lineup at Alabama on Friday night after the Tigers fell behind 9-0. He sparked a seven-run rally that night and ever since he has been on a tear, hitting .350 (7-for-20) with six runs, a homer and two RBI in the last six games. He also has two walks and an OBP of .409 in the last six games as he has been a steady force for the Tigers.
Anderson Back on the Bump
Mizzou righty Eric Anderson made his fourth start of the season last Friday against Kentucky and it was a very notable start for the redshirt junior. In fact, the righty tossed a career-high 7.1 innings, scattering just four hits and allowing just three runs in Mizzou's SEC Tournament clinching win. The date, May 17, was of significant importance to the Tiger hurler as it was the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery and the three-year anniversary of his labrum surgery in his freshman season.
Anderson was offered six figures to sign out of high school and even turned down Division I offers to be a quarterback to pitch at Mizzou. Injuries have slowed him during his career at Mizzou, but when healthy he has been one of the Tigers' top arms. In fact, he sparked a 2011 turn-around in which Mizzou won six of his seven starts while advancing all the way to the Big 12 Championship game that year.
Seniors Closing in On Some Milestones
As the three Tiger senior's careers wind down, they are close to a few notable milestones. Dane Opel sits one triple shy of cracking the all-time top-10 at Mizzou for career triples as he has nine heading into the SEC Tournament. Brannon Champagne, with 30 career stolen bases, is also just three back of seventh all-time at Mizzou in that category.
Opel Lands on Sportscenter Top Plays
Senior outfielder Dane Opel did something that most college players dream of when he landed at #1 on ESPN's Sportscenter Top Plays after robbing Texas A&M's Troy Stein of a homer. He leaped over the wall in right field and ended up halfway over the wall while bringing the ball back. The video has since went viral with nearly 7,000 views on YouTube and landing on the front page of Yahoo.com.
Pitching Has Been Great Lately
Despite Mizzou's struggles this season, the blame cannot be put on the Tiger pitching staff. In fact, over the last 16 games, the Tigers' ERA is a very good 2.98 while in the last 15 SEC games, the Tiger pitching staff boasts a combined ERA of 2.64. In those 15 league games, Mizzou has allowed just 39 earned runs over 133.0 innings pitched. It is no surprise that Rob Zastryzny, Keaton Steele and Brett Graves have been the Tigers' best pitchers in that span - below is a look at their numbers.
Graves (2-0) - 1.37 ERA in five starts - 26.1 IP, 4 ER, 10 Ks, 26 hits
Lester Plays Every Infield Position
Steele (2-1, 2 SV) - 1.54 ERA in six appearances (one start) - 23.1 IP, 4 ER, 16 Ks, 20 hits
Zastryzny (0-2) - 2.05 ERA in three starts - 22.0 IP, 22 hits, 5 earned runs, 22 Ks, four walks
Mizzou freshman Josh Lester
has started at second base in each of the last six games and he has now played every infield position for the Tigers in his first year in black and gold. He has seen the most time at first base, playing in 22 games there, but he started six games at short while Dillon Everett
and Shane Segovia
were recovering from injuries and he has played at third base seven times as well. Lester has been a key contributor for Mizzou with 25 RBI and two homers and a team-high nine doubles. Not only that, but he has just four errors on the season, a team-low among Tiger infielders and leads the Tiger infielders with a .986 fielding percentage.
Steele Continues to Do It All
It is hard to argue against the fact that redshirt sophomore Keaton Steele has been the Tigers' most valuable player this season. He has been one of the top pitchers (5-3, 3.18 ERA in 56.2 IP) and top hitters (.281, 22 runs, 24 RBI, five homers) as he is arguably one of the top two-way players in the SEC. Below are some notables on Steele.
First player to earn SEC Player of the Week and SEC Pitcher of the Week in the same season since Tennessee's Scott Schroeffel in 1996.
Tigers Have Been in Every Game
First Tiger to hit in the three-hole while starting a game on the mound since May 12, 2001 (Ryan Stegall).
Leads the Tigers in pitching wins (five) and homers (five).
Is the only player in a power conference to lead his team in homers/win while batting in the 3/4 spots.
Tossed his first career complete game in a win vs. Auburn and homered in the second game of that DH.
Went 3-for-4 with three RBI and pitched the final 4.1 innings at Alabama to earn the win.
Homered in the eighth inning and earned the save in the Tigers SEC Tourney-clinching win vs. UK.
Although the Tigers have a losing record at this point of the season, Mizzou has been in nearly every game and the numbers prove it. In fact, Mizzou has lost 19 games by three of fewer runs, including nine by just two runs and seven by a single tally. Both of Mizzou's losses at Alabama were by two or fewer runs. In fact, 10 of the Tigers' last 11 losses have all been by three or fewer runs.
Hit Me Baby, One More Time
Heading into the week, the Tigers rank second in the SEC in hit batsmen as they have been hit 77 times this year. Kentucky leads the league with 86 this season, but has played five more games than Mizzou. In SEC play, Mizzou ranks second in hit batters to only Kentucky with 41; Kentucky has 43.
Mizzou Still Limiting Doubles, Walks
Heading into the weekend, Mizzou is still doing a nice job of limiting its opponents' doubles and walks as Mizzou has allowed the fifth-fewest doubles (61) and the fourth-fewest walks (147). In fact, in SEC play, Mizzou has allowed just 34 doubles in 30 games, the fourth-best mark in the conference, an impressive mark.
Walsh is the Tigers' Ironman
It is no secret that as the Tigers' top lefty bullpen arm, Jake Walsh has been one of the Tigers' most used arms. In fact, Walsh has appeared in a team high 29 of 49 games this season and has been trotted out in 24 of the last 35 games. In the Sunday game vs. Florida, Walsh pitched a career-long 3.2 innings, allowing just two hits and one earned run (a solo, wind-aided homer off the top of the wall). He earned the win in the game and got the Tigers out of a huge jam in the fourth. He earned his second win of the season in the Tigers' SEC Tournament-clinching win vs. Kentucky last Friday.
Triple The Fun
In Mizzou's 8-2 win over Florida on April 21, the Tigers tallied three triples - Logan Pearson, Dane Opel and Dillon Everett each had a triple in the win. It marked the first time that Mizzou had three triples in a game since May 13, 2011, in an 11-1 win over Texas Tech. The three triples in that game are the most by any SEC team in a league game this season and are tied for the most among SEC teams in all games as Georgia tallied three triples in a March 1 game vs. UAB.
Lester With a Big Day
Mizzou freshman Josh Lester tallied a career-best four hits in the Tigers' 8-2 win over Florida on April 21. It was the first four-hit game by a Tiger since May 19, 2012, when Conner Mach tallied four hits against archrival Kansas. It is also the Tigers' first four-hit game by a freshman since CJ Jarvis tallied four hits in a Saturday win at Baylor on April 23, 2011.
Newcomers Making Impact
So far this season, it has been the Tiger newcomers that have supplied the bulk of the Tiger stats, specifically at the plate. In fact, six of the 19 Tiger position players this year are newcomers and those six players have combined to take 53-percent of the teams at-bats, score 48-percent of the team's runs, drive in 61-percent of the team's RBIs and have 55-percent of the team's hits. In fact, Mizzou has 16 first-year players in its program this season. As many as six first-year players could be in Mizzou's starting lineup this weekend.
The impact of the newcomers has also been felt on the mound as eight of the 14 Tigers to see action on the mound this season are first-year players. In fact, those eight players have combined for 101 of the team's 174 appearances (58-percent) and 183.2 of the team's 423.1 innings this season (44-percent).
A Quick Look at Newcomers' Contributions
Four Tigers on Big League Rosters
61% of RBIs 55% of team's hits 53% of team's at-bats 48% of team's run
101 of the team's 174 pitching appearances 183.2 of 423.1 innings pitched
16 first-year players including six junior college transfers
With last Monday (April 1) being Opening Day for Major League Baseball, Tiger fans will see four former Tigers on active big league Opening Day rosters. The three that most have grown accustomed to - Ian Kinsler
with the Texas Rangers, Aaron Crow
with the Kansas City Royals and Max Scherzer
with the Detroit Tigers - were joined by former Tiger Nick Tepesch
, who joins Kinsler in Texas as the No. 5 starter for the Rangers this season. He just put together a great start for the Rangers in his first big league appearance, going 7.1 innings, striking out five while allowing just one earned run on four hits. He was the first Rangers pitcher to pitch into the eighth inning since John Dettmer in 1994, who coincidentally is also a Mizzou alum. The Tigers were close to having five players as former All-American Kyle Gibson
made the active 40-man roster for the Minnesota Twins before being sent down to Triple A.
Recruiting Class Garners National Praise
the Mizzou baseball team transitions to the SEC this season, it will be bolstered by a 2012 recruiting that ranks 24th nationally according to Aaron Fitt at BaseballAmerica.com. The Tigers ranked one spot ahead of defending NCAA National Champion Arizona, the same team that eliminated Mizzou from the NCAA Tournament last year. The class, put together by the Mizzou coaching staff includes 19 student-athletes.
Rash Turns Down Big Money For Mizzou
One of the key contributors to the Tigers' recruiting class garnering national attention was the addition of Iowa-native Alec Rash. A second-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies, Rash was the highest-drafted high school player to elect to go to school instead of beginning a major league career.
Little League World Series Connection
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.
Ian Kinsler Inducted into Mizzou Hall of Fame
Former Mizzou standout Ian Kinsler was inducted into the Mizzou Athletics Hall of Fame in February. Although he played only one season at Mizzou, Tiger Head Coach Tim Jamieson credits him with being a key figure in helping turn the program around, as he was instrumental in leading Mizzou back to the NCAA Tournament in 2003, after a six-year drought. That 2003 NCAA appearance started a string of seven-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the Tiger program. After transferring to Mizzou from Arizona State and junior college, Kinsler batted .335 for Mizzou in 2003, and was third on the team with six home runs and 45 RBI. He also went 16-of-17 in stolen bases during the season, earning All-Big 12 honors.
Coach McArtor Honored as SEC Legend
Mizzou baseball coaching legend Gene McArtor will be honored at the 2013 SEC Baseball Tournament as an AT&T SEC Baseball Legend. The tournament is scheduled to take place from May 21-26 in Hoover, Ala., and Coach McArtor joins former Auburn head coach Hal Baird, former Kentucky second baseman Terry Shumpert and former LSU head coach Skip Bertman.
As a player at Missouri, McArtor won all-conference and all-district honors as a first baseman from 1961-63. He played on two Big Eight Conference championship teams and two squads which advanced to the College World Series. He served as team captain as a senior. He returned to MU as assistant baseball coach in 1969 after coaching and teaching at the high school level in his hometown, St. Louis. McArtor served in that role until 1974 when he succeeded John "Hi" Simmons as the Tigers' head coach. During his 21 years at the helm, McArtor compiled a 733-430-3 record and won Big Eight championships in 1976 and 1980. He guided six teams to the NCAA Tournament and coached 13 All-Americans and 41 all-conference players. McArtor served on the NCAA Baseball Committee from 1987-92, including two years as chairman, during a period of unprecedented growth for the CWS. Former president of the American Baseball Coaches Association, McArtor is a member of the ABCA Hall of Fame, the Webster Groves High School Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. Since retiring as baseball coach, he served MU as director of project management and was the interim director of athletics for several months in 1998. McArtor currently works with the NCAA as an umpire coordinator.
Jamieson Signs Extension
The Mizzou Department of the Athletics and Athletics Director Mike Alden announced back in September that a two-year contract extension for Mizzou head baseball coach Tim Jamieson had been reached. The two-year deal will keep Jamieson, who is the school's longest current-tenured head coach, at Mizzou through the 2015 season.
Francis Howell Connection
For sophomores Brett Graves, Jake Ivory and Case Munson, the 2013 season will just be an extension of their high school careers where they played together for four seasons, winning a MSHSAA State Title for Francis Howell High School last season. The trio has been playing together for nearly 10 years and should give Mizzou a strong foundation moving forward. All three are playing a much bigger role this season.
Georgia on My Mind
With the Tigers moving to the SEC this season, three Tigers grew up in the heart of SEC country and chose to play their collegiate ball at Mizzou. Mike McGraw (Newnan, Ga.), Josh Lester (Columbus, Ga.) and Dylan Kelly (Roswell, Ga.) all call the Empire State their home.
Tigers Televised Through SEC Deal
With the Mizzou baseball program entering its inaugural season as a member of the Southeastern Conference, the program will see four of its games televised to a national audience as part of the SEC's television deal. The Tigers will appear on ESPNU twice while appearing on the SEC Network through Fox Sports for two additional games.
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 103.1-FM, 100.5-FM and 1580-AM. The games can also be heard online at KTGR.com. Tex Little is in his 23rd season of calling Tiger Baseball and is joined in the booth by Hunter Mense, who is in his third year as part of the MU broadcast team.
Video webcast for all Missouri Baseball home games in 2013 is available at mutigers.tv as part of the Mizzou Network. Mizzou Network is the Tiger fans 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.
Mizzou will need to win the SEC Tournament to extend its season and qualify for its ninth NCAA Regional in 11 seasons. It may not be an unrealistic feat for the Tigers, who have advanced to the last two Big 12 Tournament Championship games and own a 9-3 mark in their last three conference tournament appearances. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MUTigerBaseball.