The Tigers have maybe not been getting the credit they’re due in the national polls in 2019.
Besides a No. 21 ranking by D1 Baseball on April 15, Missouri has found itself outside of each of the major Top-25 rankings throughout the season. That all changed Monday, though, as the Tigers were finally named to multiple polls for the first time all year. They picked up No. 24 rankings from both D1 Baseball and Baseball America, while also ranking 25th on the USA Today Coaches Poll. The National College Baseball Writers Association ranks the Top-30 teams nationally, and Missouri also made that poll in the 29th slot.
So, how exactly did the Tigers make their way back into the hearts of college baseball voters?
The Tigers suffered a debilitating sweep at the hands if Georgia in Athens two series ago, but Missouri showed its resiliency as it bounced back to take all four home games over the past week.
First, the Tigers completed the season-sweep of Missouri State a 6-2 home victory last Tuesday. This was the second year in a row that Missouri took both games over its in-state rivals, which is a huge accomplishment considering the Bears have had the Tigers’ number in recent years.
Following that victory, which improved Missouri’s record on Tuesdays to a perfect 9-0 this year, the Tigers hosted South Carolina over the weekend. Missouri rebounded from the previous weekend’s sweep by the Bulldogs to take all three games from the Gamecocks, 5-2, 11-0 and 9-7. T.J. Sikkema added to the Tigers’ resume-building week with a massive pitching performance Saturday, striking out 10 in seven innings in which he didn’t allow a single hit. Sikkema’s pitching also earned him his first Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week honor.
Tossed 7.0 shutout and no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts Saturday to help @MizzouBaseball clinch the series against South Carolina.@tjsikkema17 is the #SECBSB Pitcher of the Week. pic.twitter.com/uHvfB5veVe— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) April 29, 2019
Missouri’s record sits at 30-15-1 (depending on today’s matchup with Southeast Missouri) and 10-10-1 in the SEC. Its schedule has not provided a lot of opportunities for dominant victories, but the Tigers have taken series over Ole Miss, Kentucky and Louisiana State and split with Texas A&M, which has resulted in the nation’s No. 25 RPI as of Sunday.
The pitching staff has done of a bulk of the work this season, currently posting the sixth-best ERA (2.99) in the country while being led by Sikkema, whose 1.31 ERA is the eighth-best in the nation.
All of this has ultimately resulted in Missouri’s best shot at reaching an NCAA regional since 2012. The Tigers have been in the conversation all season, being ranked as high as a 2-seed by D1 Baseball in its projection two weeks ago. Although the loss to Georgia sent them down a spot in most projections, the sweep over South Carolina has them locked into the middle-to-upper tier of SEC teams.
Upcoming road series against Tennessee and Vanderbilt will also provide a vital look at Missouri’s potential for success in the postseason. The Tigers’ RPI will most likely not fall much regardless of the outcome of both series considering they will be facing the country’s No. 23 and No. 2 teams, according to the USA Today poll.
But a solid showing — and even a couple wins over the Volunteers and Commodores — will go a long way in cementing their place in the NCAA tournament and among the nation’s Top-25 teams.