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Mizzou softball saw its postseason run end. Will baseball find its mojo?

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Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

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The end of the storm arrived quietly for the Missouri softball team.

On Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners sent the Tigers packing in the NCAA tournament regional and with it ushered in the formal transition to a new era for the program. On the field, the Tigers’ 7-0 loss came amid a flurry of mistakes to the No. 4 overall seed in the tournament.

“I’m so proud of our group for showing so much fight these last three games and coming away with two victories,” interim coach Gina Fogue said. “It was a theme for us all year long, as we continually fought until the end in each and every game. It was fitting that our season concluded that way too. We have a lot of very talented pieces returning in 2019 and I’m excited for what’s in store in the future.”

Earlier in the day, the Tigers avenged their opening-game loss to Tulsa, prevailing in a 6-5 elimination game that started late Saturday night and was pushed into Sunday after rain swamped Norman.

Mizzou finished the year at 30-29, a campaign that began with coach Ehren Earleywine’s ouster, saw a young team miss the SEC tournament, which is just so happened to be hosting, and still make the NCAA tournament under the direction of interim coach Gina Fogue.

I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies of the program or its internal politics. But it’s a testament to the program and Fogue that it steered just clear of the shoals and found safe harbor in an NCAA tournament regional. However, you feel about Earleywine and his dismissal, the program managed to meet some of the benchmarks that would define a successful season.

Now all the parties involved can start anew. For his part, MU athletic director Jim Sterk will try to install girders for long-term support of what’s arguably the school’s premier Olympic sport. Obviously, it begins with a coaching search.

What does Sterk have to sell? Turns out, a pretty impressive package.

There are the $17.5 million stadium and associated facilities that opened this spring. In terms of a budget, MU ranks firmly in the SEC’s middle class, spending an average of $1.3 million annually for the last decade. There’s ceiling that can be vaulted: eight super regionals and three Women’s College World Series trips in that same span. And if a coach gets the program humming, fans have shown they’ll turn out in droves.

No, we can’t be naive about the rancor, the ire and frustration that’s permeated the program recently. But there’s still a foundation for long-term success—if Stek can find the right architect.


This Weekend at Rock M


Is Bieser’s bunch poised for a breakout in Hoover?

On Saturday night, Missouri reveled after a series victory over Tennessee eked the Tigers into the SEC tournament.

Later that evening the, fine folks in Birmingham, Ala., released the bracket for this week’s slugfest at the Hoover Met. And, well, the path is daunting for the 12th-seeded Tigers, who open up play against No. 5 seed South Carolina on Tuesday.

Assuming Missouri moves on, they’ll face fourth-seeded Arkansas, with a potential matchup against regular-season champion Florida awaiting them to in the nightcap Thursday. That’s two top-five RPI matchups in as many days, a daunting slate that could serve as a potential booster shot for coach Steve Beiser’s squad.

Coming into last weekend’s series against Tennessee, the sport’s bracketologists — Baseball America and D1Baseball.com — didn’t have Missouri within shouting distance of the cut line. Diagnosing the Tigers’ malady isn’t labor intensive, either: a losing SEC record. As a handy tool, here’s how the Tigers’ vital signs compare other teams analysts have squeaking in the field of 64.

NCAA Baseball Tournament Bubble

Team Conference RPI SOS Win Pct. vs. Q1 Overall W-L Conference W-L Non-Con W-L Non-Con RPI Non-Con SOS Home Road Neutral vs RPI Group 1 vs RPI Group 2 vs RPI Group 3 vs RPI Group 4 Avg RPI Ws Avg RPI Ls
Team Conference RPI SOS Win Pct. vs. Q1 Overall W-L Conference W-L Non-Con W-L Non-Con RPI Non-Con SOS Home Road Neutral vs RPI Group 1 vs RPI Group 2 vs RPI Group 3 vs RPI Group 4 Avg RPI Ws Avg RPI Ls
Mississippi State SEC 26 8 0.485 31-24 15-15 16-9 59 135 16-7 8-16 7-1 16-17 4-2 2-0 9-5 93 67
Missouri SEC 38 31 0.452 34-21 12-18 22-3 17 187 22-8 10-11 2-2 14-17 6-3 2-1 12-0 118 34
Troy Sun Belt 42 92 0.333 38-18 19-11 19-7 21 50 23-8 15-9 0-1 4-8 6-7 6-1 22-2 151 62
LSU SEC 43 19 0.444 32-23 15-15 18-8 70 102 29-8 4-14 0-1 12-15 10-7 1-0 10-1 96 44
Baylor Big 12 44 60 0.353 32-19 19-8 13-11 53 145 19-7 11-10 2-2 6-11 8-5 9-2 9-1 121 57
Illinois Big Ten 50 66 0.5 30-18 15-9 15-9 52 57 12-9 12-6 6-3 5-5 6-6 10-5 9-2 121 86
Michigan Big Ten 55 118 0.182 32-18 15-8 17-10 46 96 18-2 12-13 2-3 2-9 5-4 0-1 25-4 181 74
Louisiana Tech Conference USA 56 56 0.5 38-18 21-9 17-9 61 118 18-9 18-8 2-1 3-3 10-8 7-4 18-3 151 110
Washington Pac-12 69 68 0.571 28-22 18-9 10-13 163 74 14-12 13-9 1-1 8-6 4-4 7-7 9-5 114 102

There’s a lot to like, too. The Tigers’ RPI, which factors in a solid SOS, would normally merit an at-large bid. Meanwhile, Missouri owns 14 victories over the basketball-equivalent of Quadrant 1 opponents, and its win percentage (0.452) in those tilts is solid. Finding some mojo to spur a run to Saturday could help change the tenor of the conversation.

History hints it’s feasible, too.

Over the last decade, a dozen SEC programs earned bids with a losing record in conference play. (Note: In 2011, the SEC West was a bloodbath won by Arkansas with a 15-15 league mark.) However, all but one — an Auburn squad that went 13-17 in 2015 — had less than 14 victories, and five of them needed to at least reach the semifinals to earn their ticket.

It remains to be seen whether Mizzou can pull off such a spurt, but doing so would reap worthy spoils.

More Links:

  • Jontay Porter took part in physical testing and shooting drills, but he and Michael Porter Jr. passed on scrimmaging during the NBA combine. Even then, Jontay’s shooting left an impression.
  • During the Mizzou Caravan’s stop last Friday in Kansas City, Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said he’d be more than open to another meeting with Kansas and edition of the Showdown for Relief, which raised $2 million for hurricane disaster relief “Oh, yeah, we need to try to do it again,” Martin said. “I’d love to do it.”
  • Meanwhile, football coach Barry Odom was in St. Louis on Friday night throwing out the first pitch at Busch Stadium and going Full Dad with a tucked in T-shirt. Granted, he probably hopes more recruits from that metro area take heed of the words screen-printed on it.
  • And in the last bit of Mizzou hoops news, combo forward Romeo Weems trimmed his list of suitors to five on Saturday.

Mizzou hadn’t been in the thick of the fight for the No. 33 prospect in the 2019 class and Michigan native. But he was one of the earliest offers MU’s staff extended in that class, and another effort by assistant coach Cornell Mann to get traction in his home state.