COLUMBIA — A week ago, the Missouri Tigers needed a spark.
With losses in two Big 12 Conference series bookending an embarrassing loss to Western Illinois, Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said changes were going to be made to help ignite his struggling team.
He had options. His mid-week starters had been battered, the bottom of his lineup hadn’t been hitting and his players’ defense had been curious at best.
Whatever the list of choices looked like, tinkering with an undefeated starting pitcher with a 2.84 ERA figured to be down on it. On Saturday, typical-Sunday-starter Kyle Gibson’s presence on the mound indicated that Jamieson’s list looked a little bit different.
“I think, more than anything else, it’s that he’s struggled the last two weekends, and we felt we needed to change it up a little bit,” Jamieson said of swapping Gibson and Ian Berger in the rotation.
Given that Gibson was not as effective in his last two starts, the switch was a surprise, especially considering that Berger had done nothing to warrant the move. While recent performance may have been the catalyst, Jamieson said it also had something to do with Gibson’s psyche.
“That’s part of it too,” Jamieson said. “He has less time to prepare, less time to see your opponent. I think that helps him.
“When he’s at his best, the opponent really doesn’t matter.”
On Saturday, Jamieson was right. Featuring an impressive mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches, something that had been lacking for Gibson most of the season, the sophomore pitcher threw seven solid innings in the Tigers’ 13-2 win against Texas at Taylor Stadium.
Though he said that thinking less had helped him, he attributed it to execution.
“It did,” Gibson said of whether or not the move had taken some pressure off of him, “but really, I finally just got to the approach that I needed to be at.”
The rotation swap wasn’t the only change for the Tigers (25-8, 7-4 in confernce). Considering shortstop Andrew Thigpen’s performance, it might not have even been the most successful. With four hits on the day and three on Friday, Thigpen, inserted into the lineup for Wednesday’s game in place of Lee Fischer, has made it almost impossible for Jamieson to take him out. Unlike Gibson, however, overthinking hasn’t been an issue.
“There’s really not too much pressure on me right now,” Thigpen said. “I just kind of go out and have fun. It’s kind of like being a little kid again.”
If Sunday is anything like the first two games of the series, Thigpen and the Tigers will likely be enjoying a sweep.