The 1997 MU softball team won the school’s only Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship in the 11 years of the conference’s existence.The softball team came close to doing it again this year before losing to Oklahoma in the semifinals.
Now, the MU baseball team gets its shot to bring the second Big 12 Championship home to Columbia. And no baseball team in the Big 12 is hotter than the Tigers.
Missouri (39-14, 19-8 in Big 12) has seen its ranking shoot into the top 15 in all three collegiate polls after finishing the regular season by winning 14 of its last 17 games. Thirteen of those victories came in Big 12 play, including series wins against No. 5 Texas and then 13th-ranked Oklahoma State. Missouri’s strong finish kept it close to the Longhorns for a Big 12 regular-season title. Although Missouri fell short of the championship, the hot streak gave the team the second seed in the Big 12 Tournament, which starts today at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. However, coach Tim Jamieson, who was named co-Big 12 Coach of the Year along with Texas’ Augie Garrido, isn’t letting the season-ending tear affect his players’ confidence.
“We aren’t really paying a lot of attention to the past,” Jamieson said. “We’re just thinking about tomorrow (today’s game) right now.”
Because of the strong finish to the regular season, Jamieson knows that the team will be part of the NCAA regional tournament, which is the first step to the College World Series in Omaha.
“Finishing second in the Big 12 almost guarantees us a spot in a regional,” Jamieson said. “We’re in a position where we know we’re in the postseason, so we’re taking the Big 12 tournament one game at a time.
“Honestly, we’re confident about hosting a regional as well.”
Even though Jamieson is using the tournament as a tuneup for regionals, he said the lack of Big 12 titles for Missouri is in the back of his players’ minds.
“We’d love to be the team that wins it,” Jamieson said. “But if you gave us a choice between winning a Big 12 championship or going to Omaha, we’d choose Omaha. This weekend is just a way to help us get to Omaha.”
Missouri’s quest for a championship, and a possible trip to the College World Series, begins at 5 p.m. today, when the Tigers face seventh-seeded Oklahoma (32-23, 11-16). Missouri won two of three games when the teams played in Columbia in early May.
“It’s going to be a different game,” he said. “We’re not starting conference starters. The game is in their backyard, so it’s essentially a home game for them.
“If we play well, which I’m confident the kids will do, we’ll be fine.”
In order to keep his usual rotation ready for next week’s regionals, Jamieson will start Stephen Holst in today’s game. Jamieson said he’ll save his one and two starters, Aaron Crow and Rick Zagone, for Friday and Saturday’s games.
NOTES: On Tuesday, seven Missouri players were awarded all-conference accolades. Catcher Trevor Coleman was named the Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year after hitting .295 with eight home runs. Outfielder Jacob Priday and pitcher Aaron Crow were named to the All-Big 12 first team. Priday, a first team member in 2006, hit a team-leading nine home runs to go along with a .301 batting average. Crow (8-2) finished sixth in the Big 12 with a 2.62 ERA. Outfielder Evan Frey, who led the team with a .347 batting average, was named to the All-Big 12 second team. Pitchers Kyle Gibson and Rick Zagone and third baseman Kyle Mach were named Big 12 Honorable Mention.