ST. LOUIS — Missouri coach Tim Jamieson may have passed his win total from last season, but he isn’t gloating.
“Yeah, how about that?” Jamieson asked, laughing. “It’s certainly a threshold we’ve crossed but I’m not going to brag about it.”
After beating Illinois, 5-2, in the fifth annual Braggin’ Rights Game at Busch Stadium, Missouri captured its 19th win, one more than last year’s total victories.
Last year’s squad went 18-32, falling to its worst record in 38 years. Missouri was mired in a three-game losing streak last year before it fell to Illinois, 6-2, on April 2.
The Tigers committed five errors in the game. It was their 16th loss in 25 games.
“Last year’s team (played poorly and didn’t compete),” Jamieson said. “The game against Illinois was an example of that.”
Unlike last year, Missouri on Wednesday played cleanly against Illinois: five hits, five runs and no errors. Sophomore right-hander Peter Fairbanks said he had good flow as retired 19 of his last 20 batters.
“We’ve turned the page,” senior catcher Dylan Kelly said. “This year, we are playing better.”
The page, though, has been difficult to turn. With 13 games left, Missouri has one less losing streak that has lasted at least four games than last year. The team’s winning percentage in Southeastern Conference play, .333, is the same as last year’s.
Kelly was suspended from the media two weeks ago for calling out his teammates after a game (his suspension was lifted for the Illinois game). Following a 13-inning loss against Georgia at home on April 4, the Tigers cussed and broke things in their brand-new baseball facility.
Even with the frustration, statistically speaking, Missouri has outperformed last year’s team. The Tigers are hitting nearly 30 points better and slugging over 20 points better. Junior outfielder Logan Pearson has added a whopping 70 points to his batting average.
On the defensive end, Missouri starters have dropped its opponent’s batting average seven points. Fielding, too, is better, with the Tigers improving their fielding percentage five points so far.
Last night, senior infielder Dillon Everett slapped a walk-off winning base hit against Wichita State in the 10th inning. The win, tying last year’s record, came after Mississippi State swept Missouri in Columbia over the weekend.
“We’re a better baseball team,” Jamieson said. “Our record is indicative of that. We’ve played 25 games against top-50 teams now. And we’ve played poorly at times. But we’ve played poorly and competed … This year’s team has showed up every day and played.”
As 721 fans filed out of Busch Stadium, Fairbanks said he doesn’t see his team slowing down.
“Nineteen is not the last win we are going to end up with this year, I can tell you that much,” he said.