COLUMBIA — Throughout Nick Tespech’s career at MU, he has had a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde reputation.
The Missouri baseball team was never sure which pitcher it was going to get. Would it be the dominant starter who takes over the game, or would the offense have to score 10 runs to win?
This was tolerable from a second or third starter, but Tepesch had to change this if he wanted to become Missouri’s ace.
Early in the season, it didn’t look hopeful. Tepesch wasn’t even getting the opportunity to start on Friday nights because of his inconsistency.
It hasn’t been easy, but Tepesch, a junior, has been steadily improving through each start. Not necessarily by earning victories, but by keeping his team in the game and not submitting to pressure situations.
In the Tigers 9-2 victory against Oklahoma State on Friday at Taylor Stadium, it appeared that Tepesch had finally figured it out.
The tall, strong right-hander controlled the game from the first inning. He looked intimidating on the mound, gripped the baseball tight and started to deal.
He had all three of his pitches working and had some of the Cowboys best hitters looking like first-year little leaguers.
From then on, the game belonged to Missouri’s number one pitcher.
Tepesch has had trouble in the early innings this season. He said to be a dominant pitcher, you must develop a short-term memory.
“I try to take it one inning at a time,” Tepesch said. “If I have a bad inning like those other games, I put it behind me and go out there and act like it’s a nothing — nothing ball game. Tonight, it was good from the start and I was real happy with that.”
Coach Tim Jamieson has been reluctant to name Tepesch his ace. The team has had clear number one pitchers in years past. Jamieson has seen electric pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson take the ball on Friday nights and lead the Tigers to consistent victories.
Jamieson had hoped Tepesch would continue the trend. Jamieson said Friday was certainly a step in the right direction.
“That’s what we have to have for us to have a chance in the league,” Jamieson said. “To be able to have any type of postseason, we have to have a legitimate number one, and Nick was definitely a legitimate number one tonight.”
But can he keep it up? History is not necessarily on his side, but Tepesch is not worried about the past.
If he doesn’t pitch well his next start, he’ll go into his next one with the start clear from his mind.
“I don’t feel it’s frustrating,” Tepesch said. “It’s just taking it one game at a time. Kind of like I take one inning at a time.”
Catcher Brett Nicholas said this is the best game he has ever seen Tepesch pitch. Nicholas added while his pitching is important, the presence he shows is just as vital.
“When you got your leader and your pitcher out there doing that, it’s really contagious, and everybody else did the same thing,” Nicholas said.
Once Tepesch got the team rolling, the Tigers responded with timely hitting and solid defense. These are things that Jamieson said his club has not had much success with during conference play.
And tomorrow will be a new pitcher with either the same or a different story. Jamieson said that cannot be something the club only gets from Tepesch. Like the Tigers ace, the team has to be consistent if they want to win.
“The series isn’t over yet,” Jamieson said. “We won the first game, but we’ve got to come out and be ready to play tomorrow. It obviously makes it easier to win the weekend if you win the first game.”
Missouri (19-14, 4-6 Big 12) play Oklahoma State at 3 p.m., Saturday at Taylor Stadium.