Tyler Gabbert to transfer

Tyler Gabbert will transfer from Mizzou after redshirting his freshman season. He failed to win the No. 1 quarterback job this spring, losing the spot to James Franklin. (Photo by Nick Gerhardt)

Mizzou announced quarterback Tyler Gabbert will transfer, according to a Monday release. Gabbert was No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart following spring practice, but was expected to compete for the job with James Franklin in the summer.

“We wish Tyler the best and will do everything we can to assist him going forward,” said coach Gary Pinkel in a statement. “He’s worked very hard in our program this past year, and we thank him for his efforts. Tyler is a high quality person and an outstanding football player,” he said.

Rivals rated Gabbert as a four-star recruit out of Parkway West high school. He signed in the same recruiting class as Franklin, another four-star quarterback recruit. Like his brother, Gabbert was initially committed to Nebraska before switching his commitment to Mizzou.

The brother of Blaine redshirted his freshman season and split reps with the first offense with Franklin this spring. Franklin ultimately was named the No. 1 quarterback after spring practice.

Whether Gabbert transferred because of his No. 2 spot on the depth chart is unknown. Because Gabbert entered Mizzou with Franklin, it’s unlikely he would’ve been surprised by being beat out. Furthermore, Gabbert still had a chance to beat out Franklin over the summer, so his transfer certainly raises questions.

Pinkel will not make a further statement on the matter. Gabbert has yet to make a comment.

Hudson stays locked in as softball tops Texas

Mizzou softball players Ashley Fleming (30), Chelsea Thomas (16) and Nicole Hudson (8) celebrate the team's 6-3 win over Texas Sunday, May 8, 2011 at University Field in Columbia, Mo. The Tigers and Longhorns split the two-game series.

Saturday, nobody in the Mizzou lineup could solve Texas ace Blaire Luna. On Sunday, the Tigers came out with 10 hits, but it was Nicole Hudson taking the lead with her two-run home run in the third and RBI double in fourth that helped Mizzou to a desperately needed victory over the Longhorns, 6-3 at University Field.

The game, nationally televised on ESPN, keeps Mizzou’s hopes of a Big 12 championship alive. Should Mizzou win their final three games, one Wednesday at Oklahoma State, and a two-game series next weekend at home vs. Iowa State, they will be at least co-champs. Texas has one game left, a home match up with Baylor. Should MU win all three remaining games and the Lady Bears knock off UT, Mizzou will be the sole champion. If both teams win out, they’ll share the league title.

Hudson talked afterward about the importance of this game. “We knew that if we lost this game, we were out of the Big 12 race, and that was one of our two goals this year (along with a return to the College World Series in Oklahoma City)” And if the Tigers do finish the season with a trophy, much of it will have to do with a sharp turnaround for Hudson, who on March 30 was hitting .250 for the year. Since then she’s been on a torrid pace, hitting .417 since to raise her average to .336 prior to Sunday’s game.

Texas took the early lead when Taylor Hoagland, who has been a thorn in Mizzou’s side all weekend, singled to start a rally that ended up with her scoring to give the ‘Horns a 1-0 lead. But Mizzou responded with a run of their own in the first when Rhea Taylor, who started the game with a single then went to second on a throwing error, scored on Hudson’s first hit of the day, a solid single up the middle.

Texas took the lead again in the third when Hoagland’s single was followed by a Taylor Thom homer to put Texas up 3-1. But, Mizzou fought back and again, Hudson was right in the middle of it as the inning started with Jenna Marston walking and Hudson crushing a home run to straightaway center field to tie the game at three.

From there, Chelsea Thomas settled in to shut down the Longhorns while the Tiger bats kept producing. In the fifth Megan Christopher walked, and pinch-runner Taylor Duplechain was sacrificed to second. After a Rhea Taylor ground out consecutive base hits by Marston and Hudson gave Mizzou a 5-3 lead. Rhea Taylor would reach on a bunt single, steal second and score on a single by Marston to give Mizzou an insurance run in the sixth and a 6-3 win.

“I’m not sure if she’s just hitting well off Luna, or she’s just hot in general,” coach Ehren Earleywine said of Hudson. Either way, Hudson and the rest of this team responded to the challenge of a game they knew they had to win against the No. 4 team in the nation. “We looked that team in the eye, and we got their best effort, and we beat them” remarked Earleywine. “That says a lot about what we can do in the postseason.”

While Texas ace Luna, who had been nearly unhittable on Saturday showed some signs of fatigue late in the game, MU pitcher Chelsea Thomas just seemed to get stronger the longer she had to work. She finished with eight strikeouts on the day, scattering six hits and walking only two.

“When we get six runs, we’re not going to lose many games,” said Thomas. “Yesterday we were uptight, today we relaxed and just played our game. When we play well, our game’s really good.” She also had a lot of help behind her, with sparkling defense particularly from Hudson at third and Marston at shortstop. “It makes me more comfortable there, knowing I can give up grounders.”

And while the primary focus of Mizzou on this day was winning a game they needed for the conference championship, there was a measure of revenge as well. Rhea Taylor remembered that a series at Austin against UT last year was “the worst part of the season.”

“We made a point to come out today and get the win,” said Taylor, adding “we’re not very fond of them.” Asked to elaborate, she said she’d rather not.

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Report: Bowers to withdraw from NBA Draft

According to multiple reports, Mizzou forward Laurence Bowers will withdraw his name from the 2011 NBA Draft before Sunday’s deadline. Players who declared for the draft without hiring an agent have until May 8 to withdraw from or remain in the draft.

The only player whose status remains up in the air is Kim English, who reportedly will work out in New Jersey tomorrow before making his final decision on whether to remain in the draft. Although the current NBA Draft class is regarded as weak—many players decided to stay in school due to fears over an NBA work stoppage—English likely doesn’t project as anything more than a late second-round pick, if that.

49ers pull surprise, draft Aldon Smith at No. 7

Aldon Smith was the No. 7 player taken in the 2011 draft. (Photo by Ross Taylor)

The San Francisco 49ers drafted a Mizzou player, but it wasn’t Blaine Gabbert. Instead, the 49ers selected Aldon Smith with the No. 7 pick. Smith is expected to play outside linebacker in the NFL.

While Smith set the Mizzou sack record in 2009 as a defensive end, most teams saw the 6-foot-5 former Tiger as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. New coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to decide whether to run a 4-3 or a 3-4, but taking Smith may be a window into the team’s future strategy.

Smith suffered a broken leg in Mizzou’s nail-biter victory over San Diego State last September, missing three games before returning for the Tigers’ win over Oklahoma. Smith had a 58-yard interception return in that game.

UPDATE: here’s some of what Harbaugh, who confirmed Smith will play linebacker (despite the first quote), had to say about the newest addition to his team via the San Jose Mercury News:

Excited about adding a Missouri Tiger on our football team, another one on our defensive line to go along with Justin Smith.

I’m really impressed with him as a person. He’s an All-American young man. Has great wiring, many blessings from mom, dad and God, and we just feel like he’s going to be someone who’s obviously going to add to our football team and make us a better football team.

The other thing I’m really excited about is his wingspan. It’s Dwyane Wade-like. Almost eight-feet in wingspan. Not eight feet, it’s plus-eight inches from his height.

And, on Smith’s transition to linebacker:

There’s definitely a learning curve. You know, you’re talking about playing predominantly in a three-point stance… but there were times he was on his feet and we could see it. So it’s not a blind projection. But there will be a learning curve. There will be our times in our defense where he’ll play in his three-point stance, in the nickel when you go to the defensive end position or even an inside shade on the defensive line.

He’s got quite a bit of versatility.

Thomas takes circle as Tigers look for a Sooner sweep

By Darren Hellwege, KBIA Sports Director

After a strong nine-inning outing yesterday, Missouri Tigers softball ace Chelsea Thomas will pitch again for MU, KBIA Sports has learned.

While it would seem like fatigue could be a factor, Mizzou catcher Megan Christopher has told me that in fact Chelsea pitches better on Sundays, that she slows down a little and gets more spin and movement on her pitches.

And the stats bear this out. In three previous series in which Thomas threw Saturday and Sunday games, against Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas A&M, Thomas threw more strikeouts on Sunday. Against Tech, she threw seven innings on Saturday giving up one run on three hits, with 7 strikeouts. The next day, she struck out 10 Lady Raiders and gave up one run on one  hit in just 5 1/3 innings.

The next weekend in Waco, she threw 6 1/3 and scattered 10 hits for three runs (two earned) and had eight strikeouts. The next day she was much sharper, no runs on four hits while punching out 11 Lady Bears.

Then came the home series with the Aggies, and again Sunday looked sharper. From three runs on five hits Saturday to no runs on four hits Sunday, and 1 more strikeout (9-8) in the Sunday game.

The Tigers and Sooners start at 3 pm at University Field, with the game nationally televised on ESPN. Already a very good sized crowd is gathering for what promises to be a far nicer day weather-wise. And if the past is any indication, Chelsea Thomas’ pitching may well be improved like the conditions.

The Tigers beat Oklahoma 3-2 yesterday in nine on a walk-off homer by Abby Vock.

Softball downs No. 20 Texas A&M 6-3

The Missouri Tiger softball team is known for having a strong offense to go along with their great pitching. Of the last 22 victories, 11 have come via the “mercy rule.” So, when they were shut down by Texas A&M’s Melissa Dumezich through the first three innings, it wasn’t time to worry. “We know our bats will come around,” said Tiger freshman Madison Ruggeberg.

And she was right. After being challenged by an Aggie run in the top of the fourth inning, the Tigers responded with three in bottom of the frame, the rally sparked by a Ruggeberg double, then added three more in the sixth. And Chelsea Thomas was her usual strong self as the No. 12 Tigers beat No. 20 Texas A&M 6-3 in front of a standing room only crowd at University Field in Columbia. The game was the first of a two-game Big 12 Conference set, which wraps up Sunday morning at 11 am.

The fourth inning set the tone for the Tigers. Following an Ashley Fleming walk, Ruggeberg drove one to center which Aggie centerfielder Kelsea Orsak was unable to corral in the windy outfield. While Fleming stumbled coming around 3rd she was still able to score. Nicole Hudson then reached 2nd on an error by the A&M leftfielder on another ball affected by the wind, and Brianna Corwin, pinch-running for Ruggeberg scored to put the Tigers up 2-1.

Following a Catherine Lee single, Lisa Simmons flew out to left. Hudson came home on the play, she was nearly thrown out but scored when the Aggie catcher dropped the ball. The inning could have been even bigger but when pinch-hitter Catherine Poet singled another pinch-runner, Alaina Burkhardt was gunned down at the plate to leave the score 3-1.

“The team got a lot more energy after that first hit,” Ruggeberg noted after the game, an opinion shared by head coach Ehren Earleywine, who said “Maddy and Lee’s at-bats were crucial, they were pitching Maddy away, and she just adjusted.”

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PHOTOS: Mizzou loses to Kansas at Kauffman Stadium

[READ: game recap — Mizzou falls to Jayhawks in Kansas City, 7-1]


Report: Mizzou hires Miami’s Haith as next basketball coach

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri has agreed in principle to hire the University of Miami’s Frank Haith as its next men’s head basketball coach. In seven seasons at the helm of the Hurricanes, Haith went 129-100 with one appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The 45-year-old Haith never guided his team to a winning record in the ACC, finishing at .500 just once.

Miami went 20-14 (6-10 in ACC play) in the 2010-11 season. Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops.

Alden discussed the priorities of the coaching search following former head coach Mike Anderson’s departure. Among the highlights, the new coach must have “the whole package” and be able to recruit effectively.



Scouting report: Rob Zastryzny

Freshman Rob Zastrynzy delivers a pitch against Le Moyne Friday. (Photo by Chris Spurlock)

Prior to opening day for Mizzou baseball, junior college transfer Matt Stites was generating the most buzz among those looking at the Tigers’ starting rotation. But Stites has struggled in his four starts, posting a 5.40 ERA with 11 walks and 15 strikeouts.

Instead, it’s been left-hander Rob Zastryzny who has had the most success of any Mizzou starter so far. The freshman from Corpus Christi, Texas, boasts a 3.38 ERA with eight walks and 18 strikeouts in his four starts, including a solid 7.1 innings thrown Friday against Le Moyne (one walk, eight strikeouts, three earned runs).

KBIA Sports Extra had an opportunity to watch Zastryzny up close Friday. Grading Zastryzny on an NCAA-weighed 20-80 scale, here are the ratings:

Fastball: 55. It has good movement away from right-handers (inside to lefties) and has a little bit of sink, too. He has plus command of the pitch—at least, early on, we’ll get to stamina later—spotting it on the corners but keeping it low. When he missed, he missed low—key for a pitch that tops out at 90 mph. It consistently registered in the upper 80’s, according to the team radar gun.

Changeup: 40. It has good movement down and away from right-handers, which leads to a lot of whiffs or weak ground ball outs pulled to third base and shortstop. He still needs to work on commanding the pitch, but he threw a few good ones that looked more like a changeup of a two of three-year veteran than a freshman. There’s a decent speed difference between his fastball and changeup, which is thrown in the upper 70’s. With a little refinement, it could be a plus pitch.

Slider: 30. We didn’t see much of it Friday, but it didn’t appear Zastrynzy had a good feel for it and/or wasn’t confident in it. It has decent vertical movement, but didn’t have much horizontal break. Zastrynzy throws it in the upper 70’s. It’s probably the pitch he needs to work on the most, but if he can improve it to the point where it’s a good out pitch to go along with his changeup, he’ll be extremely successful at the college level.

Stamina: 40. It’s not too surprising Zastrynzny’s command declined as his outing went on, but he still managed to turn in some good results. He has room to add some bulk to his frame, and with that should come added durability.

The verdict: Zastrynzy will go through some growing pains in 2011 as his offspeed pitches are still works in progress, but his fastball is ready for the collegiate level. It’s too early to put him in the same realm as Max Scherzer/Aaron Crow/Kyle Gibson/Nick Tepesch—of course, all four of those pitchers were right-handed power pitchers—but Zastryzny certainly appears to have a chance to put together a fine career at Missouri.

Report: Arkansas to target Anderson

For the third consecutive year, Mike Anderson will be targeted by a school to fill a head coach opening. (Photo by JJ Stankevitz)

Via FoxSports.com’s Jeff Goodman:

Sources have told FOXSports.com that Arkansas will target Missouri’s Mike Anderson – and he has Nolan Richardson’s blessing if wants to go.

Arkansas fired coach Mike Pelphrey Sunday after the Razobracks finished up an 18-13 season with a first-round loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament.

Anderson was an assistant under coaching great Nolan Richardson, who won a national title at Arkansas in 1994.

If Arkansas indeed pursues Anderson, it will mark the third consecutive year Anderson will be courted by another school. Following Mizzou’s 2008-2009 run to the Elite Eight, Anderson was coveted by Memphis and Georgia, and in 2010 Oregon made a strong push to lure Anderson away from Columbia.

Update: ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb reports he’s heard Anderson and Arkansas will not be a match. Regardless of the source, this story won’t go away until Arkansas actually hires a new head coach, no matter what anybody—Anderson included—says.