Missouri first baseman Cody Ehlers has proved he responds well to pressure.
On Sunday, with Missouri facing a sweep for the fourth straight year in a Big 12 Conference opening series, Ehlers, a senior, hit home runs in his first two at-bats, driving in the first three runs of a 12-0 win against Kansas State.
Ehlers and the Tigers will look to improve on their sixth-place position in the Big 12 when they play their first game of a three-game series against Baylor (17-10, 2-4) at 6:30 tonight at Taylor Stadium.
Senior leadership has been important in the strong start Missouri (20-6-1, 1-2) has had. Along with Ehlers, seniors Ryan Rallo and Lee Laskowski lead the team in home runs and RBIs and are also in the top four in batting average, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples and walks.
“That’s the way it should be,” Ehlers said. “Every situation possible we’ve probably been through it and it just comes down to experience.”
Ehlers leads Missouri with nine home runs, 35 RBIs and 40 hits and has shown that he is one of the most dangerous hitters in the Big 12. His .377 batting average is 10th in conference, he is tied for third with 12 doubles, tied for second in home runs and tied for the lead with 81 total bases.
“I always expect to lead every category, I don’t care what it is,” Ehlers said. “It’s just the way I grew up and it’s just the way my mentality is.”
Along with sophomore right fielder James Boone, coach Tim Jamieson has interchanged Ehlers, Rallo and Laskowski in the two through five spots in Missouri’s lineup.
Rallo, who has started 15 games in left field and 11 as designated hitter, leads the team with 22 walks and is second with 27 RBIs and six home runs.
Laskowski has started 14 games at designated hitter and nine in left field. After hitting two home runs last year, Laskowski is tied for third with senior catcher Brad Flanders at five. He also leads the team with three triples, is third with 23 RBIs and is tied for third with Rallo at 30 hits.
“That’s the thing about our lineup,” Jamieson said. “(Ehlers) should get good pitches to hit because there’s so many guys around him. Right now (Laskowski)’s in front of him, (Rallo)’s behind him.”
The strong offensive play of Boone and fellow sophomore Zane Taylor has also bolstered the Tigers’ offense. Boone leads the team with a .391 batting average that is fifth in the Big 12 and his 34 hits are the second most on the team. Taylor trails Ehlers for the lead in runs scored with 24.
“I think (the seniors) help Taylor and Boone be better,” Jamieson said. “We’re only going to be as good as our experience.”
In addition to its improved offense, Missouri boasts a pitching staff that is second in conference with a 2.90 ERA and Ehlers said he thinks the Tigers have a chance to for a strong showing in his final season.
“Our pitching has been great, our defense has been good, if we just get our hitting consistent and get it up there where it should be, we’ll be fine,” Ehlers said.