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Missouri's baseball, softball teams open seasons in California on Friday

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | 7:53 p.m. CST; updated 8:39 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Missouri pitcher Kelly Fick focuses on a baseball in midair during the team's practice Wednesday at Faurot Field.

COLUMBIA – Both the Missouri softball and baseball teams will head west Thursday to begin their respective seasons. They'll both be playing in California, but the similarities end there, as expectations for the two teams are drastically different.

The softball team heads into the year among the preseason favorites to contend for the national title.

Friday's games

Missouri baseball vs. Cal Poly

When: noon

Where: Los Angeles

Radio: KTGR 100.5 FM/1580 AM

 

Missouri baseball vs. USC

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Los Angeles

Radio: KTGR 100.5 FM/1580 AM

 

No. 8 Missouri softball vs. Fresno State

When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: San Diego

 

No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 15 California

When: 4 p.m.

Where: San Diego


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Right now, though, they’re just ready to get outside and see some sunshine.

“We’ve been stuck in this dungeon for over a month now,” softball head coach Ehren Earleywine said, referring to practicing inside Devine Pavilion because of the weather.

The team opens its 2011 season with a doubleheader Friday in San Diego, taking on Fresno State in the first game and California later in the day.

The Tigers will remain in San Diego through the weekend, playing another doubleheader Saturday and one more game Sunday.

Earleywine said his main focus this weekend is to switch up the lineup and figure out what combination of players produce the best results. With such a deep team, Earleywine will have plenty of rotating to do.

“I’d say right now we probably have 14 or 15 options of players,” Earleywine said. “We’re going to move those kids in and out…and I hope by the end of the weekend all 14 or 15 of those kids have gotten a crack at it.”

The baseball team, on the other hand, lost some of its depth, as two of last season's team leaders are gone. Aaron Senne, a first baseman who was honored as Big 12 Co-Player of the Year, was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 10th round of the MLB draft. Senne holds the MU career record in hits, with 291. Brett Nicholas, who was a catcher and led last year’s team with 64 RBIs, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the sixth round.

Combine losing those two standout players with the team’s disappointing season last year – Missouri finished 29-26, ending a streak of seven consecutive seasons with at least 30 wins – and the Tigers are picked to finish last in the Big 12 this year.

Baseball head coach Tim Jamieson said he’s not surprised by the low expectations because the preseason pick is “based on what happened last year.”

“There’s nobody you look at like, ‘Oh my gosh, they got guys who are going to replace (Aaron) Senne and (Brett) Nicholas,’” Jamieson said.

But Jamieson said he feels this team of relative unknowns is going to be better than critics expect.

“We feel that there’s a number of guys that are capable of having great years both on the mound and offensively,” Jamieson said.

The Tigers open their season with the USC Tournament in Los Angeles. The first game is at noon Friday against Cal Poly. The game was rescheduled from Saturday because of a forecast of rain. At 8 p.m. Friday, Missouri will play Southern California. The final game is Sunday against North Carolina.

Junior pitcher Matt Stites will start Friday afternoon's game, freshman Rob Zastryzny will pitch that evening, and senior Zack Hardoin will get the start Sunday.

Even with his pitching lineup set for the team’s first weekend of play, Jamieson said it will be interesting to see how his pitching staff, which consists of mostly underclassmen, will perform this year.

“We know physically they’re capable and, with what they’ve done in practice, we think they’re good competitors and ready,” Jamieson said. “But nobody has an ERA right now and nobody has a loss attached to their name."

How those young pitchers react mentally once they see those statistics and losses next to their names will be the deciding factor in how they perform throughout the season, Jamieson said.


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