COLUMBIA — When the Missouri baseball team reached its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament last season, Evan Frey and Brock Bond were as important as any to the team’s success. Batting in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, they accounted for nearly 30 percent of the Tigers’ runs and were so productive that they each received a phone call on draft day, Frey from the Diamondbacks and Bond from the Giants. Those clubs’ gains were the Tigers’ losses.
With such important pieces missing, the Tigers entered the 2008 season with a pair of question marks sitting quite conspicuously atop their order. Finding the answers to those questions looked to be the biggest obstacle for a team that returned the middle of its order and the bulk of its pitching staff, and Missouri coach Tim Jamieson had a good idea of where he wanted to start.
Enter senior center fielder Kurt Calvert and sophomore second baseman Greg Folgia, whom Jamieson gave the first opportunities.
The early results: “I think Greg has shown he’s a pretty legitimate hitter,” Jamieson said of Folgia, a switch-hitter who was used primarily as a reliever last season. “And Kurt, put in the right spot in the lineup, against the right pitchers, can be a very legitimate hitter,” Jamieson said of the left-handed hitting Calvert, adding that he would likely be dropped in the lineup against left-handed pitching.
It’s the depth of the lineup, however, that has Jamieson and the rest of the Tigers excited.
“We feel like we’re going on all cylinders right now, it’s someone different every day,” Calvert said, “and that’s what’s so remarkable about this team.”
The lineup, which at points had struggled to score runs in the early innings, has been noticeably improved by the addition of senior Jacob Priday, whose presence led Jamieson to refer to the middle of the Tigers’ lineup as “scary.”
But despite Missouri’s 9-4 victory against South Dakota State on Wednesday at Taylor Stadium, a game which saw seven different Tigers drive in a run and extended the club’s win streak to 10 games, Jamieson said he thought Missouri hadn’t reached its potential.
“Until we, up and down the lineup, have great focus one through nine, we’re just going to be an average offensive team, in my opinion,” Jamieson said, echoing a complaint he has aired most of the season.
That focus needs to come soon for the Tigers (15-2), who make a large jump in competition from the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to the Baylor Bears this weekend at Taylor Stadium.
“They’ve got a lot of talent,” sophomore outfielder Aaron Senne said of Baylor, expecting a weekend of great baseball from both clubs, before moving into predictions. “We’ve got to find out which team really is the better team. We’ve got to find out which team really is the better team and I think, honestly, we’re the better team.
“We’ve just got to come out and prove it this weekend.”