Missouri infielder's bat stays hot despite baseball team's loss

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | 5:18 p.m. CDT; updated 12:09 a.m. CDT, Thursday, April 1, 2010
Missouri's Jesse Santo puts the tag on Purdue's Cameron Perkins at third base. Santo had an RBI double Wednesday.

COLUMBIA — Jesse Santo is no stranger to moving.

Santo, an infielder on the Missouri baseball team, is a New Jersey native. He played his freshman year at a junior college in Florida before transferring to another junior college in Oklahoma for his sophomore year.

The only thing that remains from his travels is a black tattoo on his left forearm, which reads “NJ,” paying respect to his home state. Now that he’s at Missouri, Santo said he is ready to stop moving.

“I’m done,” Santo said. “I want to find a home.”

Once Santo arrived, coach Tim Jamieson had him make one last move — from shortstop to third base. Shortstop is manned by senior Michael Liberto, so Santo’s best bet for playing time was to learn a new position.

Santo said as long as he’s not switching states, he can handle switching positions.

“Whatever role they give me is the role I’m going to play,” Santo said. “If I’m going to be the third baseman, I’ll play third base. If they want me to be a spot start, that’s what I’ll do.”

Santo struggled early in the season, but has heated up recently. After a two-hit game in the finale of the series with Texas A&M, Santo earned starts in both games against Purdue.

In the Tigers' 6-3 loss to Purdue on Wednesday at Taylor Stadium, Santo continued his hot hitting by getting Missouri (14-9) a run with an RBI double in the third inning.

“I just feel like I’m seeing the ball pretty good right now,” Santo said. “I felt like I was trying to do a little too much in the beginning. To come here from junior college, it’s a big stage. You realize it’s just baseball.”

Despite not hitting like he wanted to early on, Santo has received a decent amount of playing time because of his work with his glove.

Santo had good hitting numbers in junior college, which gave the Tigers hope that he would start swinging the bat better.

“We were hoping,” Jamieson said. “He’s been really good the last four games he’s played in. We count on him to give us both good offense and defense.”

Missouri has used another junior college transfer, Brett Nicholas, at third base when Santo’s not playing.

Nicholas’ first position is catcher, so he is more than fine with Santo playing the hot corner instead of him.

“Getting him to move over there and keep swinging the bat, I’ll go bounce around wherever they need me to be,” Nicholas said. “It just helps our team out when we have more versatile guys.”

Nicholas hinted that Santo might be better defensively at third, but he refused to admit it.

“I won’t ever say that,” Nicholas said. “When you have a shortstop at third instead of a catcher, it’s a little bit better.”

Santo said he thinks Nicholas has better hands than him because of Nicholas’ ability to play catcher.

Jamieson said it is good to have versatile players, and he’s fine with playing whoever has the hot hand at the plate.

“Either one’s fine with me,” Jamieson said. “I think both of those guys can handle the corner pretty well.”

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