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December 13, 2012

Missouri heads into new territory

Missouri is now an SEC squad. The Tiger baseball program has some similarities to their football club. In the Big XII, the gridiron gang was an annual bowl club. In the SEC, they came up one loss short of a Liberty Bowl trip. Tim Jamieson's baseball program has been a solid winner in the old league. Will they be able to get those extra wins in their new conference to return to the postseason?

Many will be surprised to learn that Missouri has eight Regional appearances in the last ten seasons. In their final year in the Big XII they won the conference tournament.

How will that transfer into the SEC?

That is what we will begin to find out this spring. One thing is not in question is who is leading the program. During this past offseason, Jamieson's contract was extended through the 2015 season serving notice to everyone he will lead the team on the next journey. He is now the longest-tenured coach at Mizzou (going into his 19th season) and has the most wins at their current school among any SEC head coach (604).

On the diamond the Tigers will lean on a pitching staff that had a 4.34 ERA a year ago. Back to lead the staff is Rob Zastryzny (5-5/3.80) who has finished the past two seasons as the Friday starter. An improved fastball from a year ago has him poised to be the next in a star-studded line of Tiger arms like Max Scherzer, Aaron Crow, Kyle Gibson and Nick Tepesch.

The other rotation spots are up for grabs with Ryan Yuengel (2-0/4.22), John Miles (4-2/5.11), Brett Graves (4-5/6.32), Jace James, Peter Fairbanks and Alec Rash to battle for those last 2 starting jobs.

Rash was the highest-drafted high school player to go to school after being selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round. He turned down $560,000 from Philly to come to Mizzou. He is expected to fit into the Tigers' rotation or towards the back end of the bullpen. He has a fastball that sits 92-93 and has topped out around 97 or 98. Very raw, but projectable at 6-6.

Another arm to watch is Eric Anderson (0-3/4.44) who was heralded as the next ace at Mizzou. He has had shoulder surgery and Tommy John, so he is in recovery mode but has started to throw. He could be a huge boost for the Tigers midway through the season if he can get back on the mound.

The lineup features returnees in the outfield as Scott Sommerfield (.312/2/29), Dane Opel (.283/11/46), and Brannon Champagne (270/0/23) had 161 starts between them.

The Tigers look to replace their starting shortstop, starting third baseman and strengthen their first base production this season. Dillon Everett (.215/0/19) is the only infield starter from a season ago who returns as a solid starter. He will play second. Mike McGraw (.306/1/17 in 72 ABs) is the leader at first base. Iowa Western CC transfer Keaton Steele should man third while NE Texas CC transfer Shane Segovia is the probable starter at short.

Competing behind the plate are Patrick Quintanilla (.313/0/3 in 16 ABs) and transfer Dylan Kelly. Rocket-armed Jake Ivory (.182/0/3 in 11 ABs) - who was clocked over 100 MPH out of the OF last season - could also factor in. Case Munson (.182/0/3 in 22 ABs) could be the DH.

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