COLUMBIA — The game wasn’t close, but the statement was dramatic. For the second day in the row, the Missouri baseball team blew out No. 5 Nebraska at Taylor Stadium.
Unlike Friday night when the team waited until a seven-run eighth inning to pull away from the Cornhuskers, the Tigers batted around in the first three innings of Saturday’s game on their way to a 22-9 victory.
“(We’re) definitely making a statement now, especially because we haven’t played too well in a while,” said second baseman Greg Folgia.
“I’d rather get our losses out of the way at the beginning of the season and start winning now, especially against a team like Nebraska who’s been red hot.”
Folgia, Missouri’s lead-off hitter, had a three-run triple and a three-run home run that landed far beyond the right field fence.
“We have a very talented team,” said first baseman Steve Gray. “I think we’ve kind of underachieved for most of the year, and this is really what the team is all about right here. This is what we can do, and it’s good to finally see it.”
Gray has gone 7-for-8 in the first two games of the series, including 4-for-5 with five RBI and his eighth home run of the year Saturday. After sharing playing time with Dan Pietroburgo most of the season, Gray’s playing time has increased along with his production recently.
And the team’s production has improved just in time for postseason play, a fact not lost on the Tigers. Saturday’s win clinched the fourth seed in the Big 12 tournament, which begins Wednesday in Oklahoma City, a spot MU coach Tim Jamieson believes virtually guarantees his team a spot in the NCAA tournament.
An added benefit of Missouri’s lopsided win was that the Tigers did not have to tax their bullpen and can now set up their pitching rotation for next week’s tournament. Starter Ian Berger (4-4) pitched just five innings for the victory, but sophomore Ryan Allen pitched three innings in relief.
As a result, Jamieson said freshman Nick Tepesh will likely start in tomorrow’s regular-season finale, saving Rick Zagone for Wednesday’s opening game.
“Obviously we’re very confident right now, and the key to success is being confident. We’ve obviously got the talent to be a good baseball team, and hopefully this is a lasting thing. It’s something you want to have at the end of the year,” Jamieson said.
For the second game in a row, Missouri set a new regular-season attendance record. A total of 3,126 attended Saturday’s game.
“What’s really neat is the fact we’ve dropped out of the top 10 and we don’t have a chance to win the Big 12, and yet people are still coming out. I think that’s a real positive sign, and fortunately we’ve given them a pretty good show.”