COLUMBIA — Like a pitcher deceiving a potential base stealer, the Missouri pitching staff has its own secret approach on the mound.
Unfortunately, the pitching staff won’t let anyone know what the secret means.
“We call ourselves raiders,” pitcher Brad Buehler said. “It’s kind of a secret thing, which I really can’t go into because we kind of made a little pact that we wouldn’t really talk about it. It’s something our pitching staff and our bullpen came up with it. It’s just something to surprise teams.”
The pitching staff won’t even let the position players know its secret.
“They’re all one,” outfielder Jonah Schmidt said. “They call themselves raiders. I don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re all crazy. They don’t let us in that little group.”
Whatever it means, Buehler said the mentality worked in his first start in almost two years in Missouri's 28-2 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday at Taylor Stadium. Buehler, a junior, started three games his freshman year. Last season, he was the team's closer.
Buehler started this season as the team's first option as closer. He struggled early in the year by allowing too many walks, and he has pitched seldom for the Tigers (12-6) during their nine-game homestand.
Buehler said he understands why his role has been diminished.
“When you’re not getting the job done, you’re probably not going to see as much playing time,” Buehler said. “My main thing is whenever I get in, I want to perform so I can get more playing time.”
On Wednesday, Buehler issued no walks in four innings of work to help Missouri win its fifth straight game.
“My main point was try to throw strikes today,” Buehler said. “I’ve had a couple rough outings where it’s just walks. It got me pretty good.”
Arkansas-Pine Bluff gave up 14 walks, which led to some big innings for Missouri. Buehler said the big innings helped him to stay poised.
“I just sat back and relaxed a little bit more today,” Buehler said. “I was a little bit antsy in those other games, and I was trying to do too much. I went with my approach I had at the beginning where I just tried to relax a little bit more.”
Schmidt, who had six RBIs in Missouri’s rout, said he doesn’t understand the pitching staff’s secret philosophy, but he is glad it worked for Buehler.
“He did a great job today,” Schmidt said. “He’s been playing around with his arm angle. I think he’s finally found out where he was back last year. He’s going to be a big asset to us down the stretch. He’s a great pitcher.”
The record for runs in a game for Missouri is 35 against William Jewell in 1902. Even with the record in sights, coach Tim Jamieson decided to allow the game end after seven innings due to run rule.
Jamieson said he thinks Buehler is heading in the right direction, but still needs to improve to be back where he was last season.
“He was better, but if you look at it from our perspective, if you put that outing against a conference team he was struggling,” Jamieson said. “He threw a lot of borderline pitches, which they helped him out on. He was better, and that’s the thing you got to take away from the positive. It should help him his next time out.”
Missouri starts conference play with a three-game series against Texas A&M. The series starts at 6:35 p.m. Friday in College Station, Texas.