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May 13, 2011For Missouri pitcher Eric Anderson, the steps are incremental.
Some velocity here, a little confidence there, keeping loose while his offense sustains a rally - anything to come closer to being fully back from surgery to repair a torn labrum that cut short his freshman season.
Anderson made more progress toward becoming 100 percent in Missouri's 11-1 win over Texas Tech on Friday night at Taylor Stadium. The sophomore gave up no runs, three hits, struck out six and tied a season high by going seven innings.
"There's still a ways to go, but it's getting there," Anderson said.
He made his season debut in a relief role against UNC-Charlotte on Feb. 27. He made his first start against Central Arkansas on March 22 and lasted only two innings. Since then, he's going consistently deeper into games. Including Friday night, his subsequent inning totals haven been 4, 3, 6, 7 and 7.
"His stuff was a little better tonight than it has been, he just keeps getting each time out a little bit better," Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said.
Though Anderson says he isn't back to full strength, there have been positive signs. He said he got his velocity up to 89 miles per hour in the early innings, which he estimated as six or seven miles per hour better than where he was in his season debut. He also kept his arm loose by playing catch down the left field line as Missouri went to work on Red Raider pitching.
"When I first came back, I couldn't do that," Anderson said. "My arm would tighten up."
While he waits for his velocity to get back where it can be, he's had to focus on other parts of pitching. He said he's building confidence each time he's on the mound.
"It doesn't matter what kind of stuff you have, as long as you're out there with a presence and that confidence," Anderson said.
He improved to a modest 2-0 and his ERA is less than stunning at 5.12, but his emergence as a steady Friday night starter has helped breath life into the Tigers.
Missouri has won the last four games Anderson has started, each the opening game in a conference series. The previous three starts led to Missouri winning the series.
"Eric's been working on his arm the whole year and being able to go out there now and keep doing what he's doing is pretty awesome," said sophomore Eric Garcia, who went 3-for-5 with four runs driven in Friday. "For him to start throwing like that on Friday night is incredible."
And as Anderson's stock has risen, so has the Tigers'. Since he started against Baylor on April 21, Missouri has won seven of its last 10 conference games. The Tigers are fifth in the Big 12 after being as low as last earlier in conference play.
"Eric's the missing piece," Jamieson said. "We didn't have him all year, which is unfortunate, but [we should] take advantage of it now."
Anderson didn't need much run support Friday night, but he got it anyway.
In the first inning, Garcia tripled home sophomore Brannon Champagne before being balked home from third to give Missouri a 2-0 lead.
The Tigers rode three walks and a hit batsman in the second inning to extend their lead to 5-0. Champagne walked with the bases loaded to drive in a run before Garcia pulled a single into right field to drive in two more.
After Missouri scored another run on an error in the fifth, Champagne struck again when he doubled home three runs. Garcia drove him in with another triple to make it 10-0 Tigers. Junior Conner Mach also tripled Friday night, which marked the first time in more than 10 years Texas Tech gave up three triples in a game.
Freshman C.J. Jarvis singled in Missouri's last run in the sixth inning.
The Red Raiders used two hits and a walk against junior Jeff Emens to scratch across their lone run.
Missouri and Texas Tech meet again at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday in the Tigers' final home stand of the season.