Missouri baseball counting on new-look infield

Friday, February 15, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Missouri infielder Kendall Keeton fields a ground ball during the black and gold game on Jan. 25.

COLUMBIA — When junior second baseman Dillon Everett takes the field Friday in Hattiesburg, Miss., he won’t be at his natural position.

The Missouri baseball team is set to open the season Friday at Southern Mississippi with a new infield that features Everett as the only returning starter.

As for the rest of the infield, head coach Tim Jamieson is hoping to find the answers sooner rather than later.

“The journey begins with a lot of newcomers and a lot of questions,” said head coach Tim Jamieson.  “What we want to do is answer those questions. The quicker we answer those questions, the better we play.”

Jamieson’s infield features several highly-touted junior college transfers that, if all goes well, will be the core of the infield. Everett is excited by the experience his new teammates bring to the table.

“They’re all kind of vets,” Everett said. “They’re all older guys that have played a lot of ball themselves, so I think we’re going to mesh well in the infield.”

Keaton Steele, who hit .430 at Iowa Western Community College in route to an NJCAA Championship and MVP award last season, will play a big role as the most likely candidate to play third base and to pitch as a closer.

"We recruited him to do both," Jamieson said. "He provided two needs — well, actually, three needs — he could play the infield, he could hit and he could pitch. That's a rare combination.”

Shortstop Shane Segovia, who Jamieson has called one of the Tigers’ best offseason pickups, is already experiencing setbacks. He strained his hamstring rounding third base during an intra-squad scrimmage and isn’t expected to get more than one or two at-bats opening weekend. As a result, Everett, who started 60 games at second base in 2012, will start the season at shortstop.

Filling the void at second base will likely be yet another junior college transfer, Kendall Keeton. The Columbia, Tenn. native hit .373 with 44 RBIs at Walters State Community College in 2012.

Behind the plate, the junior college influx continues. Dylan Kelly, who hit .429 for Middle Georgia Community College in 2012, edged out sophomore Tigers Jake Ivory and Patrick Quintanilla for the starting spot on opening day. Jamieson said he intends to use both Kelly and Ivory at the catcher position.

The first pitch of the 2013 season is set for 4 p.m. Friday at Pete Taylor Park, where returning ace Rob Zastryzny will be on the mound for Missouri.

Even with a slew of newcomers, Jamieson has an old set of expectations for opening weekend.

“You go down there with the goal to win at least two out of three,” Jamieson said. “That’s never going to be any different.”

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