By Gary Cotton
Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson, center, watches as Michael McGraw takes batting practice Thursday, March 1, 2012 at Taylor Stadium in Columbia, Mo. Waiting his turn to bat is Gavin Stark.
One word — aggressive.
That’s the word coaches and players repeatedly used after Thursday’s practice. After getting swept in the series with San Francisco last weekend, being aggressive has been the team’s main focus.
The losses in San Francisco weren’t completely surprising for coach Tim Jamieson. The team had inconsistent hitting against Auburn making their first winning series too close for Jamieson’s comfort.
According to Jamieson, early season jitters were only partly to blame for the team’s hitting woes. He gave a lot of credit to a Dons pitching performance that stifled the Tigers, holding them to just two runs and 14 hits in the three game series.
“I thought we competed, but as the weekend went on you could see our confidence start to slip away,” Jamieson said.
Junior outfielder Dane Opel agreed, saying the team might have bought into the hype about some of the Dons’ talent. Opel was named Big 12 Player of the Week after the Auburn series after recording six hits and two runs in the series. He then cooled against San Francisco, getting just one hit in the three game series.
Senior infielder Conner Mach said Missouri hitters waited on ideal pitches that never came.
“We were swinging it well up until that weekend, (which is why it was) a shocker to us,” Mach said. “We were being really tentative that weekend, just taking a lot of pitches that we should have been hitting…especially in the scoring position.”
Jamieson and Opel also dropped that 10-letter word. They cited a lack of aggressive play at the plate that led to a Tigers offensive collapse. According to Jamieson, success against Ball State this weekend will depend on some solid hitting from some specific players.
“Connor, Blake, and Eric Garcia…if these guys don’t hit then we won’t be able to score runs,” Jamieson said. “It’s something we have to fix now, we know that they’re capable.”
History is on the Tiger’s side against the Cardinals. They defeated Ball State 3-1 last season, sporting one 18-4 win. Mach was key in the Tiger’s success last year, hitting .538, scoring five runs and six RBIs. Although he’s had success in the past, Mach said this year’s match-up could easily go the other way.
“It’s kind of how you’re feeling at the moment,” Mach said. “Games early in the season are really important for confidence.”
Opel said the Tiger’s 19 game home stand will mean a much needed confidence boost for the team.
“It’s huge for us,” Opel said. “You have the fans on your side, you know the field, you know how it plays, you’re more comfortable.”
The Tigers will start their three game series with Ball State tonight at 6 p.m. They’ll play the Cardinals again at 2 p.m. Saturday and end the series Sunday at 1 p.m.