By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – John Cohen is very familiar with Missouri’s coach, just not with his team.
Cohen’s Mississippi State squad, the No. 5 seed, will open its SEC Tournament title defense tonight against 12th-seeded Missouri at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The game will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 4:30 p.m. game between Florida and Texas A&M.
The winner plays No. 4 seed South Carolina on Wednesday, while the loser goes home.
Ever since learning who his No. 16-ranked Bulldogs (40-16) would play today, Cohen has been cramming to learn about Missouri (18-31). The Tigers, who are in their first year in the SEC, did not play MSU this season.
But Cohen knows all about Mizzou coach Tim Jamieson, because he worked for him. Cohen was an assistant in Columbia from 1992-97, the last three years under Jamieson, who’s in his 19th season at the helm.
“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.”
The Tigers are down this year, but just last season they won the Big 12 Tournament title and reached the NCAA tourney for the eighth time in 10 years.
Missouri is actually carrying a little momentum into Hoover, having won two of three from Kentucky on the final weekend of the regular season. And Jamieson will be sending his ace, junior left-hander Rob Zastryzny, to the mound today.
better than that
Zastryzny is 2-9 with a 3.64 ERA, but the numbers are misleading. He’s considered the No. 77 prospect in the country by Baseball America, and his record is mostly a reflection of poor run support.
In his 12 starts, Missouri’s offense has averaged just 2.7 runs per game, and that number is the same in his nine SEC starts. The Tigers have been shut out three times when Zastryzny took the ball.
Having done his homework the past few days, Cohen doesn’t expect Mizzou to be an easy out with Zastryzny on the hill.
“He’s the real deal. If we’re not ready for him, he’s a guy who can beat you, for sure,” Cohen said.
Said Jamieson, “He’ll compete fine, but we’ve got to score runs.”
Sophomore righty Trevor Fitts (0-0, 1.65 ERA) will start for MSU. It’s his second career start, the first coming a week ago against Oral Roberts. Fitts allowed two runs (one earned) in three innings.
In five SEC appearances, he’s allowed one run in six innings of work.
None of MSU’s weekend starters are available this early in the week. Cohen isn’t sure who would pitch Wednesday if State advances.