COLUMBIA — For seven innings, Ian Berger dominated the Baylor Bears. Unable to connect with his dancing curveball, the Bears looked uncomfortable at the plate and hadn’t taken a good swing all afternoon, managing only one hit against the streaking right-hander. But in the eighth inning, with his pitch count rising and his control showing its first hints of failure, Berger was done, and Missouri coach Tim Jamieson had to make a choice.
“I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous,” Jamieson said of his decision.
With the team’s second-consecutive shutout on the line, this one a one-hitter, and the Tigers on the verge of clinching the series, in walked Nick Tepesch.
Freshman Nick Tepesch.
“They always tell us that anyone can go in at any time,” the reliever said, “and just be prepared and ready to go in when you’re called on.”
Two hitless innings later, Tepesch had earned his third save of the season, the Tigers had won 3-0 Saturday at Taylor Stadium, and Jamieson sounded like a gambler.
“When you take chances and put people out there and they respond, it makes you better and gives him more confidence, it gives us more confidence,” the coach said of running his prize freshman out to close his first Big 12 Conference game.
Although bringing in a freshman might have been a questionable choice, bringing in a pure closer wasn’t an option for Jamieson, for one simple reason: He doesn’t have one.
“I think it’s matchups, more than anything else,” Jamieson said of how he chooses a reliever.
“We brought (Tepesch) in in the eighth inning. If he would have struggled, we wouldn’t have brought him back out for the ninth, but the fact that he was throwing well, we let him go back out in the ninth. We probably would have let him do it no matter who it was.”
Last season, only four pitchers recorded saves for the Tigers, but with 2007 team-leader Kyle Gibson moving to the rotation and Greg Folgia moving to second base, the team returned only two players with closing experience to the bullpen, but Jamieson remains unconcerned.
Only 19 games into this season, five Tigers have already earned at least one save, a number that is likely to grow, though Tepesch and left-hander Scooter Hicks (who had six saves last year) could get the opportunity to lock down the role.