SEC Tournament: No. 5 MSU (40-16, 16-14 SEC) vs. No. 12 Missouri (18-31, 10-20), 8 p.m. (approx.), Hoover Metropolitan Stadium
As MSU begins its SEC Tournament title defense today, it does so against a team it’s played only once before. Missouri came to Starkville the last time MSU hosted an NCAA regional, in 2003, and the Bulldogs beat the Tigers, 10-5.
The teams did not meet during this regular season, and so John Cohen has had to do his homework the last few days. He’s learned a good bit about Missouri’s starting pitcher, Rob Zastryzny, whose numbers (2-9, 3.64 ERA) are deceiving. As mentioned in my story, Missouri has averaged just 2.7 runs per game with Zastryzny starts.
For the season, Mizzou is scoring 4.16 runs per game, and it’s the most anemic offensive club in the league. A look at the numbers and where the Tigers rank in the league:
• .247 batting average (14th)
• .326 slugging percentage (14th)
• .341 on-base percentage (14th)
• 391 hits (14th)
• 15 home runs (13th)
On the mound, Missouri has a 3.98 team ERA, which ranks 12th in the SEC. Its .964 fielding percentage is 13th.
So, this matchup certainly appears to favor MSU. But Missouri isn’t very far removed from success, having won the Big 12 Tournament title last year en route to its eighth NCAA tourney appearance in 10 years. Coach Tim Jamieson has won more than 600 games at Mizzou. This year, he’s been having to break in some new players. Jamieson said there are seven first-year players in his lineup on a regular basis.
• Remember, today’s games are single elimination. Double-elimination games begin tomorrow, and the winner of this game draws No. 4 seed South Carolina on Wednesday night. CSS will be televising tonight’s Missouri-MSU game. I’ll be on the road shortly and will check back in with y’all before first pitch.