COLUMBIA — When Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson took his current job in 1994, Keith Guttin, was already in his 11th season as coach at Missouri State. Over the years, the two have developed both a mutual respect for one another and a fierce rivalry between their programs.
“It’s good for baseball in the state of Missouri. It’s good for both teams in terms of RPI just about every year,” Guttin said. “It’s been an evenly matched series, which obviously makes for a good rivalry.”
Mizzou (11-17) at Missouri State (19-8)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Hammons Field, Springfield
RADIO: KTGR/103.1 & 100.5 FM, 1580 AM
Two upcoming contests between the Tigers and Bears, one on each of the next two Tuesdays, will determine which program controls the head-to-head series. The Tigers took a one-game lead in the all-time series, 23-22, by sweeping the Bears in 2012. Still, it’s Missouri State that holds the edge in RPI, a metric used to compare team strength, so far this season, as well as in 2011 and 2012, according to BoydsWorld.com. Missouri State's RPI is 60. Missouri's RPI is 178.
The rivalry between the two programs is just one factor that should make Tuesday’s matchup a special one for both teams. With a combined 36 players from the state on the teams’ rosters, there’s some familiarity between the groups.
“A lot of these guys have played together or against each other over the years,” Guttin said. “So, I think there’s a bit of added intensity for the players.”
Missouri State sophomore pitcher Tyler Burgess and Missouri freshman pitcher Breckin Williams, for instance, played together at Webb City High School.
“Baseball was both of our number one sports, and we were both the number one or number two guys on the team at one point,” Burgess said. “It’ll be fun to play against him.”
Although the rivalry also extends to recruiting, Guttin said direct competition between the schools for talent was more intense in the past. About 15 to 20 years ago, he said, recruiting used to be almost entirely regional, making it more important to bring in players from within state lines.
“Now everybody’s in on every player regardless of where they’re from,” Guttin said.
Still, for Guttin and his staff, it makes the most sense to focus their recruiting efforts on the state of Missouri. While he cited budgetary concerns as one reason his staff doesn’t travel to states such as Florida, Texas and California for recruitment, he said he values the work ethic of his Midwestern players.
“We may not get all the best blue chip or five-star recruits, but Midwestern kids are usually hard workers who want to see how good they can be and how far they can go,” he said.
The next game between the Tigers and Bears is set to get underway at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hammons Field in Springfield. Jace James will likely start on the mound for Missouri.