Feb. 19, 2008


Quietly Effective

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


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There are 18 schools that have made the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament each of the past five years. How many can you name?


Two are from the Big 12. Most would correctly name Texas. How about the second? Nebraska? Texas A&M? Oklahoma State?


Try Missouri.


The Tigers have been quietly effective in recent years, averaging more than 38 wins over the past five seasons, including a 42-18 record a year ago. This season, Missouri is ranked as high as No. 6 in the preseason polls.


The program has taken giant steps in the past two years. The Tigers won the Malibu Regional in 2006, falling to host Pepperdine 3-2 in the first round and then reeling off four straight victories, including the final two against the Waves. They advanced to the Fullerton Super Regional, where the Titans won in two games to advance to Omaha.


Last year, Missouri hosted a regional – a first for the program – and defeated Kent State 10-2 and Louisville 4-3 before the Cardinals claimed the final two games 4-3 and 16-6 to advance.


“It’s progression that you hear about,” Tigers coach Tim Jamieson said. “It’s very difficult to win a Regional the first time you go. It’s very difficult to win a Super Regional the first time you go. The teams that go to Omaha for the first time, it’s very difficult for them to win a national championship.


“But teams that show that consistent progress are the ones that ultimately get it done. It’s exciting to watch the growth of our program, and above all else, the players’ expectation level has risen so much.”


Two of those players make up the potent 1-2 punch for the Tigers on the mound, juniors Aaron Crow (pictured left) and Rick Zagone.


A right-hander from Wakarusa, Kan., Crow is a preseason All-American after being named first team all-conference a year ago. Crow posted a 9-4 record in 2007 with 90 strikeouts in 117.2 innings.


“I think we’re going to have a good year,” Crow said. “We have a lot of expectations, more than we have ever had. Personally, my goal is to win the conference and go from there. We have enough talent.”


Crow gives the skipper the credit for the rise of the program.


“This is a benefit of Coach Jamieson,” he said. “We’ve come a long way. He recruits the right kind of players for what he wants to do. Everyone works together and works hard. The relationships we have with each other are great.”


Zagone (pictured right) is a lefty from Crystal Lake, Ill. He was 7-2 in 17 starts as a sophomore and earned all-Big 12 honorable mention honors, fanning 77 in 102 innings.


“The team goal every year is to get out to Omaha,” Zagone said. “We definitely have a good shot at getting there.”


After recording 441 wins in his first 13 seasons at Missouri, Jamieson knows he has a strong team in 2008, especially on the mound.


“I think we’re as deep and talented as anybody in the country,” Jamieson said. “I think we’re mentioned in the same sentence with San Diego and Arizona. I think we have the capability of handling this new season with the depth of the pitching staff we have. I think we have the potential to have three No. 1s throwing on the weekend for us. They could be No. 1 starters for a lot of teams around the country. We’ve got depth in the bullpen, and we have a ton of experience back from last year.”


Mike Anderson, the head coach at Nebraska, has a young squad after losing 14 players from last season, including 11 to professional baseball. He sees the Tigers battling for the top spot in the conference.


“I tend to think Missouri and Texas,” Anderson said. “They return some pretty good pitching. Those two teams I think will be at the top of the conference followed by Baylor, who to me had a lot of young players last year that should be more developed and they had a good year that way, making the tournament.


“From those three teams on, I think it’s pick and choose. I’d like to think that the beginning of the year, we might be in the middle of the conference and hopefully by the end of the year, we can work our way towards the top of it.”


Missouri has reached the top and hopes to stay there, using its success to continue to recruit outstanding talent.


“I liked the direction the program was headed,” Crow said about his decision to come to Missouri. “I felt I could be part of something special. I knew Mizzou would continue to get better, and I felt I could help contribute to that. The combination of the city of Columbia and the school made it the right choice for me.”


Added Zagone: “Being up from the Chicago area, I wanted to go south where it’s a little warmer. Not too far away from home, good competition and great conference, perform every day against some of the best teams in the nation.”


And not to mention, play for one of the best teams in the country – one you might just see in Omaha come June.


18 teams to make each of the past five NCAA Tournaments

Arizona State, Arkansas, Cal State Fullerton, Clemson, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi, Mississippi State, MISSOURI, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oral Roberts, Pepperdine, Rice, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Texas, Wichita State