Analysis: Missouri baseball built for success in 2010

Senior hitting and junior pitching leads the way for Missouri.
Senior outfielder Aaron Senne makes a sliding catch April 26 at Taylor Stadium. Senne was named Big 12 Conference Player of the Week after hitting three home runs over the weekend. Maneater File Photo

Two weeks into the new season, the Missouri baseball team has shown experience at the plate and on the mound is a recipe for success.

The Tigers competed in the Collegiate Cactus Classic in Tucson, Ariz., and the Auburn Invitational in Auburn, Ala., in their first two weekends. They took two of three in both series, posting a 4-2 record. The start is a big improvement from the 2009 season, when the Tigers started 1-5.

Missouri scored in the double digits twice in the two invitationals. The Tigers are hitting .300 as a team and have plated 46 runs, averaging just less than eight per game.

At the head of the offensive onslaught are senior first baseman Aaron Senne and senior shortstop Michael Liberto. The two seniors have emerged as leaders in the batter's box for the Tigers.

Liberto is hitting more than .500, leading the team with 12 hits in his first 21 at-bats. He is also tied for first with six runs scored and earns the most walks and least strikeouts per plate appearance.

Liberto tends to hit singles and fight his way around the bases, but Senne prefers to touch them all at once. Senne, who was selected by the Minnesota Twins in last year's draft, decided to come back for his senior season and leads the team with four home runs in just 27 at-bats. He also leads all Tigers with 10 RBIs on the year.

Senne's play in the Auburn Invitational last weekend earned him Big 12 Conference Player of the Week honors. The senior had three longballs in the three games, including two in the 11-7 win against host Auburn on Saturday. It was the first multi-homer game for a Tiger since last May.

Now in his senior year, Senne is on pace to hold multiple career records for Missouri baseball by the end of the season end. His two doubles in the Auburn Classic make him tied for sixth with 49 career two-baggers. The senior slugger also sits at eighth on the RBI list and ninth in home runs.

Paired with power and experience at the plate is a group of aged pitchers on this year's staff. Game-tested juniors Nick Tepesch and Phil McCormick, each with a win already this season, head the rotation. Also adding an early victory is junior Zack Hardoin, in his first year with Missouri after playing at a junior college.

Joining the starters is a bullpen hurler, junior Brad Buehler, who is coming off a record-tying 35 relief appearances in 2009. Buehler has had a rough start this year, failing to earn a save in his first three outings.

Missouri has earned a postseason bid seven years running, but all seven postseasons ended in first-round regionals. The Big 12 Championship has also eluded the Tigers in that span. This year's postseason could be a different story if the Tigers keep up what they've started.

Next up for the Tigers is the Houston College Classic, starting with host Houston at 3:30 p.m. Friday. Missouri will then play TCU on Saturday and Texas on Sunday. Senne and company will look for revenge Sunday as the Longhorns ousted the Tigers in the 2009 Big 12 Championship game.

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