The 2013 Missouri softball season begins at 10:30 a.m. today in Santa Barbara, CA. (That's right, 8:30 a.m. local time.) Consider this your live thread for all of the day's diamond-related activity.
10:30 a.m. CT
Softball: Mizzou at UC Santa Barbara
12:30 p.m. CT
Softball: Mizzou vs. Fresno State
4:00 p.m. CT
Baseball: Mizzou at Southern Miss
How do you see the schedule breaking out for the Tigers this spring?
CPC: With the move to the SEC, came an odd scheduling quirk: the first home games of the year are conference games against Texas A&M. Looking at the schedule as a whole, it’s probably the toughest schedule I can remember. San Diego State and Florida in Palm Springs, a 3 game series against Georgia Tech, road trips to Alabama and LSU 2 weekends apart. Toss in some other BCS schools such as Maryland, Illinois and Iowa and games against UCSB, CS-Fullerton, Creighton....you can see where a slip up can occur. But, with a deep lineup and a solid pitching staff, things should be manageable. 54 games are currently scheduled and I don’t think 45 wins is out of the question.
The Beef: I always try to break the schedule up into three parts. The first is the pre-season OOC. Due to the way the SEC schedule is laid out (weekends only), this part of the schedule was cut down a tad. I see back to back trips out to CA, since I assume the team does not stay. Fresno is the best team the first weekend, but their RPI last year was in the 60s. The following weekend is far tougher, as Maryland and SDSU were in or around the top 50, and Florida was 7th and starts the season ranked 14th. The pre-season OOC finishes with a trip down to Cape for the annual in-state Breast Cancer Awareness tournament where the Tigers should not be tested.
In conference, we all likely know how tough the sledding is going to be. The RPI of the teams we will play in 3-game series reads as such (with pre-season ranking if applicable)
Texas A&M - 10th (17th in preseason)
at Mississippi - 92
South Carolina - 99
at Alabama - 1st (1st)
Arkansas - 42
at LSU - 17th (10th)
at Kentucky - 34th (RV)
Tennessee - 5th (6th)
We do miss Florida (though we do play them once), UGA (15th/9th), Auburn (33) and Miss. St (35th/RV), so that is not awful. aTm and Tenn at home will be fun series for Mizzou fans to see.
The final group is the in-season OOC which sees games all over the 2012 RPI range. Ga Tech is receiving some early votes and is the jewel of the home, OOC schedule. Illinois in St. Charles is solid, Iowa on the road is decent, and the rest start to get into the 100’s and beyond, meaning games you should not be losing. 54 games total, and I will say we land at 42-12. I think going to Alabama and LSU (despite the inherent motivation in that series) will be tough, along with aTm and Tenn at home, and I do not see us winning the majority of those 12 games. Couple that with probably 3-4 trip-ups in OOC, and I think that is where we land.
CPC: I’m not sure how the schedule is created. Obviously, the SEC pretty much determines the weekends and the matchups on the conference side, but the non-conference scheduling kind of intrigues me. I think the Mary Nutter tournament might have been a multi-year deal that we agreed to...we played in that tournament last year. And of course, we’re always going to participate in the Missouri Breast Cancer tournament. I’m of the opinion that the UCSB tournament and the CS-Fullerton doubleheader were added in last to the February part of the schedule to try and toughen the team up for the brutal SEC slate. But with the SEC only playing weekend games, that really made scheduling difficult and really only left a small window for the early season. It also doesn’t help that we didn’t play an official game this past weekend, when the season officially began. The Georgia Tech series is clearly aimed at nailing down some recruiting ties in that state, but I kind of think that might have been scheduled ahead of time as well.
The Beef: I can only believe you are correct about the Ga Tech games if we return them in Atlanta next season. If not, I am not sure how getting them at home does much for recruiting ties. I think they are solid games nonetheless, similar to (though better than) the Illinois and Iowa games during the middle of the weeks.
CPC: This preview may not mean a lot once the games start getting played...players play above or below their potential and get replaced or moved around, lineups get modified based on the opponent and, as we all know, injuries can happen.
In conclusion, it appears we agree on a lot: lots of innings available for Bailey Erwin, a deep, solid infield, some question marks in the outfield and at least 40 wins. Even our starting lineups are similar.