Tigers Set for Big 12 Tournament

MUTIGERS.COM <i>Conner Mach and the Tigers will open the Big 12 Tournament against Texas at 12:30 Wednesday.</i>
Conner Mach and the Tigers will open the Big 12 Tournament against Texas at 12:30 Wednesday.

May 24, 2011

Mizzou (24-30, 11-15 Big 12) at the Big 12 Tournament
Date: May 25-29
Location: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Stadium: Bricktown Ballpark (13,066)
Gametracker: Big 12 Sports.com
Radio: KTGR 1580 AM/100.5 FM
Media Notes: Click Here
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First Pitch - What You Need to Know
The Mizzou baseball team has qualified for its ninth straight Big 12 Tournament as it will head to Bricktown in Oklahoma City for the annual affair. Mizzou has earned the No. 8 overall seed and will open action against top-seeded Texas. During the regular season, Mizzou went 0-3 against the Longhorns, but it is a rematch of last year's opening round matchup which the Tigers won, 7-3.

Series History • Mizzou trails the all-time series with Texas, 32-25, after being swept in Austin earlier this season. However, the Tigers' last win over Texas came in game one of the 2010 Big 12 Tournament when they topped then No. 1-ranked Texas, 7-3, behind a strong start from Nick Tepesch. In Big 12 Tournament action, Mizzou is 3-1 all-time against the Longhorns, including the first-round upset last season

History at the Big 12 Tournament • Since 1997, the Tigers have qualified for 12 Big 12 Tournaments and have compiled an overall record on 18-21 in those games, including a pair of Big 12 title game appearances in both 2004 and 2009. Despite those two title game appearances, Mizzou has never claimed the Big 12 Tournament title. Heading into its opening round matchup with Texas on Wednesday, the Tigers are 3-1 all-time against the Longhorns at the Big 12 Tournament, although the lone Texas win came in the 2009 Big 12 title game.

Great Second Half • After the first four weekends of Big 12 play, the Tigers appeared to be out of the hunt for a berth to the Big 12 Championship, sitting at 2-9 in league games, ranking dead last. But Mizzou won four its final five Big 12 series to climb into the tournament and at one point rank as high as fifth in the league. In fact, Mizzou finished just a half game back of sixth in the Big 12.

Lineup Change Sparks Turnaround • A big key to the Tigers' surge during the second half of Big 12 play was a lineup change made prior to the Baylor series. Since that time, Mizzou is 10-8 overall and 9-6 in Big 12 games in that span. Of those 10 wins, eight came against RPI top 50 teams while a pair of those wins came against top-10 ranked Texas A&M. The notable changes to the lineup were moving junior Conner Mach from the heart of the order to the leadoff spot and from third base to left field. Mizzou also moved Eric Garcia from second base to first base and began hitting him in the three hole.

Last Time Out
The Tigers clinched a spot in the Big 12 Tournament after defeating Nebraska in what turned out to be a rain-filled, two-day affair in Lincoln, 10-5. Mizzou and Nebraska began that game last Thursday and it was suspended in the top of the fifth with Mizzou trailing, 3-1. But when the game was resumed Friday, the Tigers scored eight runs over the final 1.1 innings to win 10-5. Mizzou then dropped a doubleheader on Saturday, giving NU the series win, its first in four years against Mizzou. The Huskers won game one of the doubleheader, 4-3, and the second 8-5. The two wins snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Tigers in the series.

Recapping the Regular Season Series with UT
The Tigers were swept by the Longhorns down in Austin back on April 1-3. The series was in the middle of a season-long eight-game road trip for the Tigers and Mizzou had its chances in the first two games of the series. In fact, Mizzou led Texas 4-0 in the Friday night game after tagging Taylor Jungmann for four runs through the first four innings as Tiger DH Jonah Schmidt became the first player to homer off of Jungmann all season. But Mizzou allowed Texas to take a one run lead and then stranded the bases loaded in the ninth, giving Texas a 5-4 win. In the Saturday game, Mizzou lost 5-2 and dropped the series finale, 10-1.

Four wins in Last Five Big 12 Series
As Mizzou heads to Bricktown this week, it qualified for the Big 12 Tournament with a huge run through the league over the last five weeks. In fact, Mizzou won four of its last five Big 12 series heading into the tournament, including a stretch of four in a row all over RPI top 50 teams. The Tigers' only series loss came to Nebraska as they dropped the final two games of that series after already clinching a spot to the Tournament on Friday. Mizzou had not won four straight Big 12 series since 2009 before doing so this season and it fell just one shy of winning five straight for the first time since 2007.

Recapping Last Year's Championship
The Tigers went 2-1 last season at the Big 12 Tournament, including a shocking first-round upset of top-ranked Texas in the opening round. The Tigers rode a complete game from Nick Tepesch to a 7-3 win over the Longhorns. The Tigers then fell, 7-2, to eventual tournament champion Texas A&M and then topped Texas Tech, 7-3, as the Tigers went 2-1 in tournament action, all against programs from Texas.

All-Big 12 Honors for Four
Three Tigers landed on the annual post season All-Big 12 teams, highlighted by senior Jonah Schmidt, who landed on the second team. Also, sophomore Blake Brown and Phil McCormick landed on the All-Big 12 honorable mention team. Freshman lefty Rob Zastryzny also earned All-Big 12 honors, landing the All-Big 12 Freshman Team.

The Friday Night Guy
Last year at this time, sophomore starter Eric Anderson was missing out on action due to a labral tear in his right shoulder. Nearly a year later, the Tiger righty has come back from the surgery and has provided stability to the Tiger weekend rotation, emerging as the Tigers' Friday night starter. Despite a little bit of a rocky start in a rainy game at Nebraska last Thursday, he had been lights out over his last two starts. In fact, he has started five games for the Tigers in Big 12 play and the Tigers have not lost any of those contests.

He had a career-best outing against Texas Tech two weeks ago, throwing 93 pitches over 7.0 innings - both career highs - while striking out six (also a career-best) and scattering just three Red Raider hits. Texas Tech came into the game as the league's No. 4-ranked offense as well, but Anderson was able to control the hitters all night. Anderson worked his way back into the weekend rotation prior to the Baylor series, and there is little argument that his presence on the mound has been a key reason to the Tigers' hot play as of late.

Offense Comes to Life
The biggest reason for Mizzou's turnaround in league play as of late has been its increased production at the plate. As a team, Mizzou hit just .237 in the first 11 league games, averaging just two runs per game. But over the last 15 league contests, Mizzou is scoring close to seven runs per game and is hitting .279 as a team. Mizzou has also seen an increase in extra-base hits (40 over the last 15 vs. 18 over the first 11). One of the biggest contributing factors to the Tigers' success at the plate as of late is their ability to hit with runners in scoring position. In fact, over the first 11 Big 12 games, Mizzou hit just .168 with runners in scoring position. Since then, over the last 15 league games, Mizzou is hitting .277 as a team in those spots. In fact, MU has scored more than 10 runs 10 times this season, five of which have come in the last 16 games.

Mixing Things Up
A lot of the increased production at the plate is due to a lineup change made by head coach Tim Jamieson prior to the Tigers' series at Baylor. In that switch, Jamieson moved Conner Mach from third base to left field and hit the Tiger junior in the leadoff spot. He also moved Blake Brown to the fifth hole in the order and moved Eric Garcia from second base to first base.14 of the Tigers' last 15 league games have been played with that lineup, and Mizzou is 9-5 in those games. The Tigers are also 10-5 in the 15 starts that Brown has made in the five-hole.

Schmidt Keeps Hitting
Senior Jonah Schmidt, the Tiger designated hitter, is hitting .343 in Big 12 play, which has him ranked ninth in the league this season. Also, his .315 average in all games has him ranked 15th in the Big 12. He has 35 hits in Big 12 play, ranking him sixth in the league and he is 10th in total bases with 54 in league games. He was named Big 12 Player of the Week for the first time in his career after a monster weekend at Kansas State that saw him hit .500 with a slugging percentage of 1.083, a pair of home runs and three RBI.

A 1-2 Punch
The Tiger lineup has been much more potent due to Schmidt having some protection in the lineup lately and that has come in the form of Blake Brown. In league games, Brown is hitting .298 and is slugging a team-best .543, ranking him 10th in the Big 12. He has a team-best 19 RBI in league games as well, ranking him ninth in the Big 12. Not only that but he boasts an OBP of .402 in Big 12 play as well.

What Can Brown Do For You?
Brown has obviously been hot as of late, combining with Jonah Schmidt for a great 1-2 punch in the middle of the Tiger order, but he has also been very consistent at the plate all season. In fact, he ranks eighth in the Big 12 in stolen bases (18), seventh in walks (33), third in home runs during league play (five) and ranks just outside the league's top 10 in OBP at .402. Since the lineup change that dropped him to the five-hole, Brown is hitting .294 with three home runs, 13 RBI, 28 total bases and 11 runs scored. He also boasts an OBP of .400 and a slugging percentage of .549. Mizzou is also 10-5 with Brown in the five-hole 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 .338 with 14 RBI, a .554 slugging percentage and an OBP of .427. He has more runs in the last 18 games than he did in the first 36 and he has surpassed his amount of extra-base hits in that span as well. With Mach in the leadoff hole, Mizzou is 10-8 while the team was just 14-22 with him hitting in other spots of the lineup. Since hitting leadoff, Mach leads the team in hits, runs, RBI, total bases and home runs. He owns a season-long 10-game his streak into the Tournament.

Champagne Swinging a Hot Bat
Brannon Champagne saw his 10-game hit streak snapped after going 0-2 in the series finale against Texas Tech, but either way, the Tiger center fielder had a huge weekend against the Red Raiders. In all, he led the team with a .429 batting average and reached base in nearly 70-percent of his at-bats, boasting an OBP of .692 after walking five times and being hit by a pitch. He also drove in five runs on the weekend. Four came on Friday night, including a bases-loaded double in that game. He also drew a pair of bases-loaded walks on the weekend to drive in a pair of runs. Mizzou is 10-4 in games in which Champagne has multiple hits in a game this season and is 11-4 when Champagne tallies at least one RBI.

Garcia Heating Up
Through his first nine games this season, Eric Garcia struggled at the plate, compiling just two hits while hitting .083. Since that point, Garcia has hit .297 and has hit safely in 30 of the 44 games in that span with Mizzou winning 15 of those contests. Since moving to first base prior to the Baylor series, Garcia is hitting .333 with a pair of home runs and a team-best 13 RBI and his numbers are even better since moving back to the three-hole over the last 16 games. In that span, he is hitting .323 with two home runs and 14 RBI and is slugging .508 with six extra-base hits and a team-high 33 total bases.

Less Runners Left on Base
Mizzou has seen an improvement offensively as of late, due in large part to its ability to hit with runners on base. In fact, over the Tigers' first 11 Big 12 games, they were hitting just .245 with runners on base, but they have seen that number rise to .296 over the last 15 conference games. In fact, Mizzou averaged nearly 10 runners left on base through the first 11 Big 12 games and is now stranding just over seven per game. Also, Mizzou hit just .168 with runners in scoring position through the first 11 league games and is now hitting .277 with runners in scoring position over the last 15 league games.

Walking Off
The Tigers' 4-3 walk-off win in the series finale against Texas Tech was their fourth of the season and all four walk-off wins have come in Big 12 play. The first came vs. OU in the 11th inning on a walk-off single through the right side by Eric Garcia. The next was a walk-off single by Blake Brown in the middle game of the Kansas series. Mizzou also tallied a walk-off walk against Texas A&M in the opener of that three-game series. Mizzou leads the league with its four walk-off wins in Big 12 play this season.

Wins Over the Top 50
Heading into the Big 12 Tournament, Mizzou now has 10 wins over RPI top 50 teams this season and if you throw the Tigers' win over Nebraska into the mix, they now have 11 wins over teams ranks in the nation's top 60 in the RPI. The Tigers have 24 wins on the season and nearly half of those have come against teams ranked among the nation's top 60 teams, quite an impressive feat for the Tigers. Eight of those 11 wins have also come in the last five series as well, making MU one of the most dangerous teams in the league right now.

A Tough Schedule
Mizzou has also played one of the nation's toughest schedules this season, coming in at No. 25 nationally. In fact, only Baylor (sixth) and Texas A&M (10th) have played tougher schedules based on RPI than the Tigers have this season. 11 of the Tigers' opponents this season have been ranked by at least one of the major four polls at least once this season. Mizzou has also held its own against top-10 teams this season, winning three of eight contests, with two wins coming against Big 12 co-Champion Texas A&M.

Walk This Way
A pair of Tigers rank among the league's top seven in bases on balls this season as Blake Brown and Eric Garcia rank seventh with 33 walks apiece. Mizzou and Texas Tech are the only two schools with two players ranked in the league's top seven this season. Garcia's 16 walks in league play rank him sixth as well. As a team, Mizzou has drawn 220 walks this season, which ranks fourth in the Big 12. Texas Tech leads the league with 268.

Grand Theft Base
The Tigers moved to third in the Big 12 with 89 steals this season - a mark that has them ranked in the top 25 nationally. Kansas State leads the league with 117 while Texas Tech ranks just ahead of the Tigers with 91. Individually Blake Brown leads the team with 18, ranking him eighth in the league.

Five other Tigers have been impressive on the base paths as well this season. Eric Garcia has 14 steals on 16 attempts this season, making him the most efficient base stealer on the team. Brannon Champagne has 12 steals while Conner Mach has 11. Both Jesse Santo and Jonah Schmidt have 10 as well, 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.

Milestone for Mccormick
Senior lefty Phil McCormick pitched in one game over the weekend at Nebraska, moving his career total to 102 pitching appearances, becoming just the third Tiger in program history to pitch in at least 100 games in a career. He ranks third on Mizzou's all-time list, just six back of the school record. Taylor Parker (2003-06) and Scott Black (1987-90) are tied for the school record with 108 career appearances.

In all, McCormick has been one of the nation's most reliable relievers over the past two seasons. Last year, the lefty pitched in 36 games, a new school record. With 32 appearances this season, he now has 68 over the past two seasons, the most over a two-year span in program history. In fact, 98 of his 102 total appearances have come over the past three seasons, making it the most productive three year span for a Tiger pitcher in program history.

McCormick Continues to Shine
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 32 appearances this season), but he has shut down nearly every team that he has faced this season. In league play, McCormick ranks ninth in ERA at 2.73 and he also ranks seventh with his .234 opponent batting average. He leads the team in saves (six) and wins (seven) as well. His six saves rank eighth in the Big 12 while his five wins in Big 12 play rank third in the league as well.

Stites is Tigers' Workhorse
After a bad start at Kansas State, junior righty Matt Stites got back on track against Texas Tech, allowing just two earned runs over 6.1 innings of work while striking out five in the start. He continues to have great numbers in his first year with the Tigers as he leads the team in innings pitched (85.1) while owning a 3.18 ERA in nine Big 12 starts. He also ranks 10th in the league in innings pitched during league play (56.2) and is eighth overall with 49 strikeouts during league play. He also owns a pair of wins in Big 12 play as well.

Players of the Week
A pair of Tigers have garnered Big 12 Player of the Week honors this season, all in the last four weeks as well. Junior Conner Mach was named Big 12 Player of the Week following the Baylor series in which he hit .545 while leading the team in RBI (five), total bases (10), slugging (.909), on-base percentage (.600) while posting six hits (two for extra bases) on the week. Senior designated hitter Jonah Schmidt then followed suit by earning the same honor after the Tigers' series at Kansas State. In those three games, Schmidt hit .500 while slugging 1.083 with an OBP of .571. He tallied a pair of home runs and a double in the series while scoring a team-high five runs and driving in three more. Missouri joins Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Baylor as the only schools to have two different players honored as Big 12 Player of the Week this season.

Triple the Fun
Against Texas Tech, Mizzou did something that it had not done since February 28, 2005, and that was tally three triples in the same game. Two of the triples came off of the bat of Eric Garcia, both hot shots down the right field line. He became the first Tiger to hit two triples in the same game since Kurt Calvert did on February 29, 2008, against Cal. Conner Mach had the other triple in the game.

Four Tigers Land On Academic All-Big 12 Team
Four Tigers were selected to the Academic All-Big 12 team this season as two qualified for the first team while two more earned spots on the second team. Landing on the first team were sophomores Brannon Champagne and Ben Turner while both Ryan Ampleman and Phil McCormick landed on the second team. Ampleman and McCormick are both honored on the All-Academic team for the third time in their careers while Champagne and Turner are both first-time selections.

Forever Young
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 has 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.

Up Next
The Tigers will need to win the Big 12 Tournament to extend its season to the NCAA Regional Round. Should the Tigers do so, the NCAA Regional Round will be held June 3-6 at destinations which are yet to be determined. For all the latest on Mizzou baseball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on twitter @MUTigerBaseball.



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