COLUMBIA, MO. — It just means more, right? Well, the Missouri baseball team will play its biggest series since joining the Southeastern Conference when Florida comes to town for the first of three games Thursday night.
The Tigers (34-18-1, 13-13-1 SEC), ranked as high as No. 21 in the national polls and No. 15 in the NCAA’s RPI, are in position to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament and can boost their seeding with a strong finish at Taylor Stadium. If Mizzou can take two of three from the Gators (30-23, 10-17), if not sweep UF, then win a few more at next week’s SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala., could Steve Bieser’s team possibly host an NCAA regional? The Tigers would figure to have the RPI ranking to make a strong case as one of 16 hosts.
But first, the Gators. Here’s a look at the Tigers and the three-game series by the numbers:
.324 … Missouri’s batting average in its last 10 games. The Tigers have found their groove at the plate, averaging nearly eight runs over the last 10 games.
4 … Missouri’s all-times wins over Florida in 24 meetings. The Gators have dominated this series lately, winning nine straight over the Tigers with series sweeps in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
27-3 … Missouri’s record when leading through six innings. The Tigers’ bullpen has been outstanding all year.
19 … Missouri’s come-from-behind wins this season.
10 … Missouri’s wins over top-50 RPI teams this year: No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 10 Tennessee (two wins), No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 21 LSU (two wins), No. 29 Ole Miss (two wins) and No. 42 Kentucky (two wins). Florida checks in at No. 32 in the RPI.
3 … Missouri players named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award in team history. Junior lefthander T.J. Sikkema became No. 3 on Wednesday, joining starting pitchers Kyle Gibson (2009) an Aaron Crow (2008). Just 25 players from around the country make the semifinalist list for college baseball’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
1.36 … Sikkema’s ERA this season, which ranks sixth among all college pitchers. He’s got the lowest ERA in SEC play at 1.65. The lefty from Iowa is making a strong case for SEC pitcher of the year. He’s expected to get the start Friday.
248 … Sikkema’s career strikeouts, which rank seventh in team history and pushes him past the great Max Scherzer on the all-time Mizzou list.
3.29 … Mizzou’s staff ERA. Only seven pitching staffs in Division I have posted a lower ERA. This is hardly a one-man staff. The job pitching coach Fred Corral has done this year— and with some injuries testing the staff’s depth — has been remarkable.
100 … Missouri’s stolen bases, the most in the SEC and the most in team history for a given season.
2 … Errors this season by second baseman Mark Vierling on 167 chances. He’s turned an SEC-best 28 double plays. The sophomore from CBC has also become a threat at the plate, hitting .283, up from .229 last year.
.290/.444/.497 … Slash line for junior center fielder Kameron Misner, who’s pulled himself out of an early-season slump. The projected first-round MLB pick has 10 doubles and leads the club with 10 homers and 19 steals.
1.39, 1.49 ... ERAs by Mizzou righthanded relievers Cameron Dulle and Ian Bedell. The two have combined for nine saves and been a major reason the Tigers are so strong in the late innings. Dulle, the senior from Oakville, is holding hitters to a batting average of .157, zero home runs and just two extra-base hits in 32 innings.
100 … Wins for third-year coach Steve Bieser in 161 games at Mizzou, making him the program’s second-fastest to triple-digit wins. Only John “Hi” Simmons, the field’s namesake, got to 100 wins faster, reaching the milestone in 139 games.
.226 … Florida’s batting average in road games. The Gators have been woeful away from McKethan Stadium, going just 3-13 away from home. UF’s pitchers have struggled in road games, too, with a staff ERA of 8.93.
57 … Home runs allowed by Florida pitchers this season, the most in the SEC. Mizzou pitchers have allowed a league-low 20 homers.