By Phil Stanton
for Big 12 coaches' survey results
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?
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
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
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.”
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.”
(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
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