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March 21, 2009

Tigers jump on Aggies early

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The Tigers have been waiting for their bats to get on track. For the second straight game, Missouri struck first against the No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies. After starter Ian Berger made short work of the Aggies in the first, the Tigers added the knock out blow with five runs in the bottom of the first.

Head coach Tim Jamieson had toyed with the idea of using the pitching by committee method in Big 12 play, and he made it a reality on Saturday. Once again, the strategy paid off for Jamieson with his staff giving up a combined two runs. Jamieson even used first baseman Greg Folgia who gave up no runs and had two strikeouts in the inning.

"It has (worked) every game," Jamieson said. "There were a couple of nervous moments, but I think when you score five runs in the bottom of the first it takes a lot of pressure off your pitching staff, whether it be one guy or nine guys."

According to Kyle Mach, getting a fast start is very important for this team.

"It's huge," Mach said. "I don't think A&M was expecting the staff either. I think it threw them off guard and coming out and putting up five runs in the first definitely stuck it to them."

Some of the biggest hits in the first inning came from unlikely candidates. After spending a few games on the bench due to poor hitting, designated hitter Steve Gray looped a base hit over the shortstop to increase the Tigers lead to 3 to 0. Senior Kyle Mach followed with a double in the left-center gap that put the Tigers up five going into the second inning. Mach had been hitting just .224 before the outburst.

"The pitcher fell down in the count 2-0, and I was just looking for a good fastball to hit, and I got it and just put the barrel on it," Mach said. "It definitely felt good for me and the team as well.

Brett Parsons hit a homerun to center in the Aggies half of the second against Missouri pitcher Tyler Evans, which marked the first run he has surrendered this season. Any momentum the Aggies had was squandered, however, when rightfielder Aaron Senne gunned out Nick Fleece when he tried to turn a single into a double.

"Another indication of one our strengths is our outfield arms," Jamieson said. "Senne is very accurate, and we will keep taking them. It was not a base running mistake, it was a very good defensive play on our part."

Gray struck again for the Tigers in the third. After Conner Mach delivered a two-out single, Gray plugged the gap in left-center to send him home giving the Tigers a 6 to 1 lead.

Anytime Texas A&M seemed to be gaining momentum, Missouri had an answer. With two men on in the fifth, Ryan Clubb was able to induce an inning-ending double play. In the sixth, with one out and runners on first and second, Phil McCormick was able to get a groundball and a strikeout of Fleece to end the inning.

"I think it's a combination of our guys stepping up and doing their job, and we're catching A&M at the right time," Jamieson said. "It would be a different game over at College Station. It would be a different game, I mean they have lost five in a row, so their confidence is not where it was at the beginning of the year, so we are catching them at the right time is part of it."

The Tigers gave up one more in the game but coasted to a 6-2 victory. The win improved the Tigers record to 8-1 at home (11-10 overall) and gives them three straight victories. Sophomore Nick Tepesch will get the start on Sunday and look to continue his hot pitching. In his last outing, Tepesch pitched a career high eight innings and only gave up one run in a no decision. Last year, the Tigers were swept by the Aggies at College Station, and they will be looking to return the favor tomorrow.

"It would be huge," Berger said. "Like I said, this is a good team we are playing. We are going for the sweep. These guys swept us last year, that's what we're going for this year."

No one covers Tiger athletics like PowerMizzou.com. This year, we've added baseball coverage to our top-notch football and basketball beats. To follow the Tigers year-round, sign up today to start your Free Seven-Day Trial.

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