The Missouri Baseball program is set to begin a new era this upcoming season with head coach Kerrick Jackson leading the way, replacing Steve Bieser.
With the coaching change (just like many others coaching changes) Kerrick Jackson will have to deal with a tremendous amount of roster turnover in his first year. Missouri has lost some key contributors from last season’s squad, including Ty Wilmsmeyer and Ross Lovich, who transferred to Arkansas, Dalton Bargo to Tennessee, and Dylan Leach to Missouri State — that’s just to name a few. Additionally, Austin Troesser, Zach Franklin, Chandler Murphy and Luke Mann were selected in the MLB Draft so there will be a new-look Mizzou Baseball team next season.
However, Jackson is bringing in some intriguing transfer portal talent as well — highlighted by the additions of Wake Forest’s Danny Corona, Texas Tech’s Jeric Curtis and Seton Hall’s Jedier Hernandez. Make no mistake about it, there is still some talented pieces on this roster for Jackson to work with.
Just as it will be for many athletic programs, it’s difficult to evaluate expectations for a head coach in their first year with a team as they are – in most cases – in a rebuild mode. It is especially harder for Mizzou Baseball when the program competes in the toughest conference in college baseball – and that’s with the lowest budget in the league from the athletic department.
Missouri’s last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2012, the Tigers’ final season in the Big 12, and that was by virtue of winning the Big 12 Tournament Championship. You must go back to 2009 to find Mizzou’s last at-large invitation to an NCAA Regional.
While it has been a long drought to reach the NCAA postseason, Missouri has been very close a couple of times to clinching a regional appearance since joining the SEC – but the Tigers have just never been able to get over the hump to make them a national contender.
So, would it be fair to expect Kerrick Jackson to lead Mizzou to the NCAA Tournament in his first year as the head coach? Perhaps not – but here are some realistic expectations for Jackson and the program.
Qualify for the SEC Tournament
Since joining the league, Missouri has clinched a berth in Hoover more often than not since being an SEC member. In 10 full seasons, the Tigers have made the SEC Tournament seven times.
That’s important to note, because not every SEC team makes it to Hoover. The problem is that this has been the ceiling for this program in quite some time. If this new tenure under Kerrick Jackson wants to reach new heights – that should be the minimum expectation.
At the very least, clinching a spot in Hoover extends your season for another day — and if you’re one of the Top 12 teams in the SEC you’re certainly a respectable baseball team around the country.
Making Hoover would still be a big deal especially in Jackson’s first season.
Take Care of Business in the Non-Conference and at Home
Despite their lacking conference record, Mizzou has usually fared pretty well in their non-conference portion. Last season Missouri was 21-3 in the non-con (5-1 vs Power 5) and the only SEC team that finished undefeated in midweek games. If the Tigers can continue their non-conference success, they will be in a good spot.
And as we all know, Mizzou’s Taylor Stadium is not up-to-par with the rest of the programs in the SEC — but the Tigers did set a single-season home attendance record last season which is a promising sign.
Thank you, Tiger fans, for helping us set a new single-season home attendance record. ⚾️ pic.twitter.com/OjIWi9Kp8x— Mizzou Baseball (@MizzouBaseball) May 15, 2023
It will be key for Jackson to maintain that fan support — and there’s no better way to do that than winning at Taylor Stadium. This goes without saying, winning on the road in college sports is hard to do but winning on the road in SEC Baseball is another level of difficulty — which puts extra importance on winning home games.
Avoid Sweeps and Beat the Middle-Tier Teams in the League
Mizzou had some nice moments last season, but the Tigers got swept way too often that washed away the good they’d built up. Of course, it will be a tall task for Missouri to win series against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee who are consistently atop the SEC East — but winning at least one game in those series would be an improvement.
While they shouldn’t be measured against the elite teams quite yet because they’re not at that level, the Tigers need to be able to find success against the “middle-tier” teams in this conference. Just like in football, Missouri Baseball’s swing games that will determine their season usually come down to South Carolina and Kentucky — and the Tigers were swept by both the Gamecocks and Wildcats last season. If the program wants to take that next step, these are the types of series that Mizzou consistently needs to win.
While it may be unfair to expect an NCAA Tournament appearance right out of the gate in Kerrick Jackson’s first season — the program can still be on the right track if the Tigers can achieve these steps in 2024.