Missouri’s Max Scherzer and Hunter Mense are changing their summer plans.
They will abandon their summer league teams after being selected to play for this year’s USA National Team.
Scherzer and Mense were among 22 of the country’s top collegiate players chosen from a group of 39 at tryouts last week at Doak Field on the campus of North Carolina State University.
On Thursday the team will be in Japan to compete in the 34th annual USA vs. Japan Collegiate Championship Series.
Scherzer said he is looking forward to playing a variety of countries while representing the United States.
“We get to play some good competition,” Scherzer said. “It’s exciting to be a part of.”
Scherzer shined during the regular season for the Tigers, winning Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year honors, but the spotlight was on Mense during the tryouts.
Mense struggled at the NCAA Regional Tournament at the end of the season, going 2-for-12, with four strikeouts and one RBI. His only two hits were doubles, in which he led the Tigers with 17.
Mense, though, said he was still confident after the Tigers’ season-ending loss to Cal-State Fullerton. He said he realized he needed play well to separate himself from the other outfielders vying for a spot on the national team.
“Going into it I felt I was at a pretty good point in my career,” Mense said. “It was a once in a lifetime experience. It was do-or-die.”
In two intrasquad games, Mense, a 5-foot-11 left-hander, went 6-for-11 with four doubles and scored two runs.
Scherzer watched his college teammate rip the ball from the dugout. Scherzer said other players were shocked at how hard Mense was hitting the ball.
“It was fun to brag about a teammate that was doing well,” Scherzer said.
Scherzer only pitched in one of the three intrasquad games and showed he could shut down more than Big 12 hitters.
In three innings, Scherzer allowed three hits while striking out three and allowing one unearned run.
“It was a given he’d make the team,” Mense said. “He came out in the tryouts and solidified what everyone thought.”
Scherzer and Mense will share this experience on and off the field, living together this summer. They will also share their experience with Missouri coach Tim Jamieson, who will serve as an assistant to national team head coach Steve Smith of Baylor.
Scherzer said he is looking forward to playing for the new coaching staff, which he said will provide “new views of what I should and should not do” to get better.
Players from 14 different teams make up this years national team and five of the eight teams in the College World Series have players or coaches on the team.
The national team will play 24 games this summer, traveling to East Asia to face Japan and Chinese Taipei and returning to the east coast of the United States to face Italy and Nicaragua.