Mizzou baseball is about to advance behind the veteran core | Mizzou Sports News


COLUMBIA, Mo. – Last season the Missouri baseball team finished last in the mighty Southeastern Conference in nearly all batting and pitching team statistics and at the end of the season set a team single-season record for losses, finishing the forgettable year 15-36.

It can only get better in 2022, right?

Entering his sixth year in Colombia, Mizzou coach Steve Bieser made some coaching changes and rejuvenated his roster, putting the Tigers back on course, he believes, for a breakthrough season.

In 2017 and 2019, Mizzou was close to ending his NCAA postseason drought, but his credentials fell short. After a 2020 shortened by COVID and the terrible spring of last year — the Tigers were 8-22 in SEC play, despite taking two of three from eventual College World Series champion Mississippi State — Bieser thinks the Tigers are equipped for a rebound year.

“We’ve come full circle,” said Bieser, who is 130-108-1 in five seasons at Mizzou. “This is a group that I’m very proud of, by the way, to have responded to the adversity we faced last year and how our upper class students arrived this year ready to go. lead early.

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“I was no more excited to work with a group and open a season in my coaching career than with this group,” he added, “because they did everything right. “

The Tigers are entering another competitive year in a conference loaded with programs that historically devote more resources to baseball. This challenge does not change this spring. Eight SEC teams appear in D1Baseball’s preseason Top 25. The Tigers play all eight this season: No. 2 Arkansas, No. 3 Vanderbilt, No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 5 Mississippi, No. 8 Louisiana State, No. 9 Florida, No. 16 Georgia and No. 19 Tennessee.

That gauntlet explains why Bieser has scheduled a lighter non-conference slate, opening with a four-game series at Nicholls State that begins Friday in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Last year the Tigers stumbled early, losing nine of their first 12 games and never recovered.

“We know the goal is to win these games early,” Bieser said. “When Gonzaga arrives here (March 10-13), a very good club, we better be ready to play.”

Bieser expects his four returning players to carry the load offensively: first baseman/designated hitter Torin Montgomery, shortstop Josh Day, receiver Tre Morris and third baseman Luke Mann (Vianney High ), who led the Tigers with eight homers last year. A promising class of freshmen and transfers will also need to contribute immediately, including rookies Hector Mangual and Justin Colon, both from Puerto Rico, and outfielder Carlos Pena of Bayside, New York.

“Returning guys who started 50+ games last year and have that experience and understand the difficulty of going through the SEC every weekend…those guys can really set the tone for the rest of the group,” Bieser said. . .

Collectively, the Tigers need to improve at home plate in all areas to stand a chance against SEC pitchers. Last year’s team ranked last in the SEC in hitting (.243), on-base percentage (.334) and slugging (.355).

“We just want to be good at the end of the day,” Montgomery said. “Having this year of rebound is going to be huge for us because maybe we’re not highly regarded, but we just want to leave our mark. … We accept that it’s a tough conference, but we’re tougher.

On the mound, junior right-hander Spencer Miles is back to reprise his role as Bieser’s top starter for a staff that led the nation in the steps and posted Mizzou’s highest team ERA (7.24) in the era. program, prompting Bieser to fire pitching coach Fred Corral after the season.

Bieser hoped to recapture the program’s past pitching prowess with the addition of St. Louis native Brian DeLunas, a former Mizzou assistant with MLB coaching experience. But just as the Tigers began preseason training last month, DeLunas died of kidney disease at just 46 years old. The whole team attended the funeral in Saint-Louis.

“He was there for all of us. He loved helping us,” Miles said. “Baseball was his one true love, and then he helped kids grow into men and through the game. It was tough.

To ease a difficult transition so close to the season, Bieser promoted Mitch Plassmeyer to take over pitching coaching duties. For years, Plassmeyer learned under DeLunas, working alongside him at Premier Pitching and Performance in St. Louis.

“It’s not like we’re changing anything that we started in the fall,” Bieser said. “We just keep going. … You’ll see Brian’s fingerprints on that pitching stick all year round.

Now working for his third athletic director, Desiree Reed-Francois, Beiser is confident the administration is committed to improving its program.

“The communication I’ve had with her, she understands baseball is serious in the SEC,” he said. “We are not hiding anything. We have to step up and we have to start treating it like we have to do certain things here. … The appearance (of the stadium) is a bit run down. We haven’t done anything for a while, but we’re going to change all the wall padding. We’re going to make some quick improvements that fans think before the season starts will be much better.

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