Missouri Tigers' Baseball: On the Prowl For Big 12 Title

Oliver VanDervoortCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2009

Is this the year? Is 2009 the year that the Missouri Tigers take the next step in their maturation into one of the top baseball programs not only in the Big 12, but also the college baseball world in general?

Is this the year Mizzou finally pays a visit to Omaha?

Since Tim Jamieson took over the reigns as head coach of the Tigers, his teams have consistently played in the postseason, and most recently have gone on a run of six playoff appearances in the last seven years. 

While that is obviously an accomplishment in its own right, there are some Missouri fans who are starting to wonder whether Jamieson is the man who can lead the team to the next level. In those six postseason appearances, the Tigers have advanced past the regional playoffs just once.

In 2006, Missouri took on Cal State Fullerton in the Super Regional, and were embarrassed in back to back games, 7-1, and 9-1.

Ranked anywhere between 10th and 22nd in this years's preseason polls, there is obviously a belief that at the very least, Missouri will repeat its past success in the regular season. 

If Jamieson does take his team to their first College World Series, he will do it without two of his biggest guns from a year ago.

All-world starting pitcher Aaron Crow (13-0, 2.35 ERA in 2008) and slugging outfielder Jacob Priday (.332 avg, team-leading 16 home runs) graduated. Kyle Gibson looks to take over the Friday spot in the rotation after posting nine wins and a 3.35 earned run average a year ago, but after Gibson, the rotation seems to be a large question mark. 

Only one pitcher slated to occupy the rotation posted more than a single victory last season, and none of the prospective starters were able to keep their ERA's under four.

The Tigers' offense carried the team a year ago, and at least until the rotation solidifies, will be expected to carry the team yet again this season. That means two newcomers will have to step up quickly in shortstop Mike Liberto who transferred over from Delgado Junior College, and true freshman designated hitter Conner Mach, who comes from nearby Chesterfield.

In just a little over two weeks, the Tigers will take the field on the same kind of West Coast swing most cold weather teams have to start the season with. If Jamieson wants his road trip to be a successful one, and by proxy a harbinger of the season in general; he'll need his new players, and old players in new roles, to hit the ground running.