COLUMBIA — The Missouri baseball team has never been ranked No. 1. Today, that might change.
With each of the three teams ranked above them in the Baseball America Top 25 — Arizona State, Arizona and North Carolina — losing at least once this weekend before the Tigers took the field Sunday at Taylor Stadium, the path to the top looked a bit clearer, and Missouri had one more chance to make its case before the rankings came out.
To say that the Tigers did might be an understatement.
As slugger Jacob Priday winced, the result of a baseball to the backside, Lee Fischer strolled across the plate only a few feet from where the ball had come to rest, sealing the Tigers’ sweep of Baylor.
Apparently unsatisfied with its consecutive shutouts of the No. 14-ranked Bears, Missouri ended Sunday’s contest early — literally. Fischer’s run gave the Tigers a 12-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, triggering the NCAA’s version of the mercy rule, a fitting end to a series that was never close. Heralded as the series of the week by rivals.com, the Tigers couldn’t have put forth a more convincing argument that they are the top team in the nation — though that might not be good enough.
“I don’t know what they’re going to say,” Priday said ofBaseball America’s staff, which determines the rankings. “But we know how good we are, we know what we’re capable of, and we expect to come out and win every series.”
After five consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the Tigers are showing why coach Tim Jamieson has said this is his most talented team yet. And while their stated goal remains to win a Big 12 Conference title and to host another regional, the Tigers are excited about the possibility of the top ranking, even if they can’t control when they get there.
“We’ll let them decide that,” Priday said about whether his team should be ranked No. 1. “We can only play and let them pick.
“It matters where you end up at the end of the year, not right now.”
Whether or not they reach the top spot in the prestigious Baseball America poll, however, the Tigers are unlikely to ascend to the same heights in some of the nation’s other polls. As is the case in college football, baseball rankings come in a number of different forms, from the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, in which the Tigers were ranked ninth this week, to the Collegiate Baseball Writers poll, in which they were ranked 11th this week. Most of the rankings, regardless of who compiles them, take into account a number of factors, including strength of schedule, where series are played, and where school’s are located. Missouri, for instance, might receive the benefit of the doubt in a loss because it hasn’t been able to practice outside as often as warmer climate schools, putting it at a significant disadvantage. The Tigers are the only northern team ranked above No. 20 by Baseball America.
If the Tigers keep playing like they did against Baylor, though, the rankings will serve as little more than ornamentation atop the school’s first Big 12 title, an achievement that would earn them automatic entry into the NCAA tournament, leaving only the at-large bids to fret over what everyone else thinks of them.