SEC Tournament: No. 5 MSU (40-16, 16-14 SEC) vs. No. 12 Missouri (18-31, 10-20), Tuesday, 8 p.m. (approx.), Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The Bulldogs open play in Hoover against the team that won the Big 12 tournament championship last season. It’s been a tough first year in the SEC for Missouri, however, as 19th-year head coach Tim Jamieson has had to introduce some new faces into the lineup. One edge he might have tomorrow, though, is on the mound. He’s starting junior left-hander Rob Zastryzny, who is 2-9 with a 3.64 ERA but is highly thought of by pro scouts (Baseball America lists him as the 77th-best prospect).
Zastryzny hasn’t pitched since May 12 – the Sunday game against Alabama. That was because back spasms forced Jamieson to give him a little extra rest between starts.
“Once we found out we were in (the tournament), we skipped him on Saturday, because we knew our only chances to keep playing were to win on Tuesday,” Jamieson said today on the SEC Tournament coaches teleconference. Tuesday is a single-elimination day, then the tournament reverts to the double-elimination format.
MSU will not be able to use a weekend guy against Mizzou, so coach John Cohen will turn to sophomore right-hander Trevor Fitts (0-0, 1.65). It will be his second career start, the first coming last Tuesday against Oral Roberts. Fitts threw three innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
“For right now it’s Trevor Fitts. Missouri’s a little more left-handed in their lineup than we had anticipated,” Cohen said
Fitts has logged six innings in SEC play this year and has allowed one run. Last season he was 3-0 with a 3.29 ERA in eight appearances (13 2/3 innings).
“Fitts has been very productive in bullpens, and his last start was against Oral Roberts. He pitched very well early in that ballgame,” Cohen said. “We feel like this opportunity has presented itself, and he’s our best candidate for a Tuesday ballgame.”
As for the rest of the starting pitching, assuming MSU gets past Missouri, Cohen is unsure who he will use Wednesday and beyond.
“Well, we can’t imagine getting Kendall (Graveman) involved until Thursday. That would be shorting him again one day, and we did that the week before as well. … Certainly we’ll get through Game 1 and then see what’s available to us.”
Tomorrow’s game holds extra meaning for Cohen, who was an assistant coach at Missouri from 1992-97, serving under Jamieson the last three years of that stretch.
“I consider Tim to be one of my closest friends,” Cohen said. “I learned so much from him having been with him at Missouri. It’s no surprise that his teams do well in postseason, because he is such a great postseason coach.”
Here are a couple more highlights from Cohen’s chat.
Matching up with Zastryzny, what do you know about him?
“I wish I could comment a little more about that. But I do know this, from the folks I’ve talked to so far, he’s very capable of running through innings. He’s a guy who can get swing-and-miss, he’s a guy who’s a prospect. He’s the real deal. If we’re not ready for him, he’s a guy who can beat you, for sure.”
Is Hunter Renfroe the best hitter you’ve ever coached?
“I don’t know if he’s the best hitter I’ve ever coached, I think he’s the most gifted athlete on a baseball field I’ve ever coached. And the difference there is he’s a legitimate five-tool guy, at least at the college level. … He’s a rare bird. He’s just somebody who can do so many athletic things.”
Now, some more thoughts from Jamieson.
Looking forward to facing Cohen?
“I’m looking forward to it. … It’s something that was going to happen eventually, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m anxious to see John’s reaction more than anything else.”
Playing a team you haven’t seen, do you game plan or focus more on yourself?
“It’s always going to be about us for the most part. Try to get some scouting reports on them. But I think it’s kind of interesting, because you go into it not having played before, and it’s a lot more intriguing than having played each other three times and knowing a lot more about each other. It’s a matchup that you go out there and just try to play your best, because you really don’t know what to expect.”
Can y’all draw from last year’s Big 12 Tournament championship?
“Most of the guys that can draw from it are on the pitching staff. We’ve been playing seven first-year players in our lineup most of the year, but I think there’s enough guys that can draw from it.”