COLUMBIA — When the NCAA implemented a uniform Feb. 22-start date for the 2008 baseball season, it was done to help create a competitive balance of power between southern and western programs, which were able to play as early as late January, and northern schools whose climates kept their infields frozen until well past then.
While giving college baseball its first true “Opening Day” for the first time, the change turned an already hectic season into one that rarely offers a breather, putting already precious pitching depth at a premium.
The schedule change couldn’t hae come at a more opportune time for Tigers coach Tim Jamieson, who entered the season with perhaps the nation’s best, and deepest, pitching staff at his disposal.
The coach was apparently so pleased by his starters’ performances coming in to Tuesday night’s game with South Dakota State University that Jamieson, who has had all of his moves work for him lately, batted his pitcher in the leadoff spot.
Somewhere, Tony LaRussa was smiling.
It is worth mentioning, however, that it was Greg Folgia, the Tigers’ opening day second baseman, who took the mound in the 13-1 victory against the Jackrabbits at Taylor Stadium, but when Folgia struck out the first five batters, it only highlighted Jamieson’s embarrassment of riches.
Folgia, who threw 60 innings for Missouri last season as a freshman, threw five scoreless innings, but doesn’t expect to get much time on the mound during Big 12 Conference play.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t get to pitch that much, just because there’s such good talent,” Folgia said.
Jamieson, highlighting the absence of a key piece of the team’s staff, was pleased, but unsure how much time Folgia would see on the mound later on.
“I’m not sure, if (Rick) Zagone was healthy, he’d be given that opportunity,” the coach said of Folgia, “but it’s nice to see guys step up, an now we have even more confidence in our mid-week abilitly.”
Even without Zagone, who has been sidelined with weakness in his shoulder, the efforts of Aaron Crow, Kyle Gibson, and Ian Berger have allowed Missouri to flex its depth only when it’s chosen to, offering Jamieson a fresh bullpen to choose from when conference play opens Friday against Baylor.
With only 33 off-days scheduled at the beginning of the season, and the always difficult Big 12 to navigate, the Tigers look to be as prepared as anyone.
“Our staff can handle it this year and should be able to handle it most years,” Jamieson said, “but the thing I don’t like about it is, ‘If we get rain, where do you make your games up?’”
Rain is about the only thing Jamieson has had to worry about lately.