Each time Missouri outfielder Jacob Priday comes to bat at Taylor Stadium, the loudspeaker plays Blake Shelton’s country song “Heavy Lifting.”
“I hit the ground runnin’ with the mornin’ sun. When a job needs doin’, I get it done.”
The song is similar to how Priday, a freshman, describes his role for the Tigers.
“I’m batting in the middle of the lineup, so I’m not the type of guy who’s gonna get on all the time,” he said. “But I see myself as an RBI kind of guy and I get the job done when I need to.”
Priday has done just that, starting 16 games for the Tigers and driving in 29 runs. That total ranks second on the team to James Boone, who leads the Big 12 Conference with 43.
In Missouri’s formidable lineup, which has scored at least 10 runs in every game of its nine-game winning streak, Priday has provided another powerful bat to complement Boone. He is hitting .368 with four home runs and 10 extra-base hits.
Boone said a player that can step directly from high school into a college lineup is rare.
“He’s just one of those special guys as a freshman,” Boone said. “That’s one of the toughest things to do is come in as a freshman and play.”
Priday is from Sikeston, but that didn’t make his passage to Missouri automatic. He said he wasn’t a Missouri kid who always dreamed of being a Tiger.
“Growing up, it wasn’t always, ‘I’m going to go here and play here,’” he said. “I never really thought about it until my sophomore or junior year and I started thinking about where I wanted to go play.
“It turns out that when I came up here, everybody on the team’s real great. I ended up loving the coaches, loving everything here. It felt good.”
That’s a good thing for Missouri coach Tim Jamieson and the Tigers, who start Big 12 play this week after playing their past seven games against Youngstown State and North Dakota State. Those two teams have one win between them.
“I think we’ve been ready (for conference play) for a couple of weeks,” Jamieson said.
Jamieson’s biggest concern, he said, was that the Tigers haven’t played many close games.
This past weekend, Missouri outscored North Dakota State 55-4 in four games.
“There’s some unknowns out there, but I do think the confidence of this ballclub and the character of the guys is strong so that should get us through that,” Jamieson said. “But it’d still be nice to have a couple of tight ones under our belt.”
There will probably be more close games in store for the Tigers in Big 12 play, which starts at 6:30 p.m. today at Kansas State (13-7 overall, 1-2 Big 12). It will also be the first Big 12 game for several Missouri starters, including Priday.
“I think (he’s ready),” Boone said. “I really do. You don’t really know till you get there, but I think he’ll do just fine.”
A good weekend from Priday would be an important boost for the Tigers (17-4, 0-0), who dropped two of three games to the Wildcats last year at the start of Big 12 play en route to a 2-7 conference start.