Missouri baseball season ends without NCAA tournament appearance

The Tigers finished the 2017 season with a 36-23 record.

Maneater File Photo

The NCAA baseball tournament selection committee confirmed on Monday what many had already expected: The 2017 season for Missouri baseball was over.

Missouri was not selected as one of 64 Division I programs to compete in a regional bracket of the NCAA tournament despite a 36-23 season that included 14 Southeastern Conference victories and a 20-game winning streak.

Missouri was considered a “bubble” team—a team right on the brink of an at-large tournament selection—but was ultimately passed over. Texas A&M (whom the Tigers defeated in the SEC tournament last week) and Auburn, both seen as SEC bubble schools as well, made the tournament field.

A weak non-conference schedule appears to be what kept the Tigers from receiving an at-large selection. Missouri ranked 52nd in the nation in strength of schedule, according to WarrenNolan.com, just one spot behind Texas A&M.

The NCAA baseball tournament begins with regional play on June 2 and culminates with the College World Series, which takes place in Omaha, Nebraska starting June 17.

Season in review

Missouri finished the regular season fourth in the SEC East with a 14-16 conference record. After a 20-1 start, the Tigers’ play became mediocre down the stretch, and they finished 16-22 in their final 38 games. If the team hopes to contend next season, it will need to be much more consistent, especially against stiffer competition.

Head coach Steve Bieser wildly impressed in his first season, guiding the Tigers to a 10-win improvement from last year. Routinely tweaking the batting order and pitching rotation, Beiser showed willingness to adapt — a key trait for successful managers in the ever-changing world of SEC baseball.

Statistically, the Tigers are well-represented on the SEC leaderboards. Junior Trey Harris finished eighth in the SEC with 12 home runs. Harris’ 48 RBIs were also good enough for 10th place in the conference. Freshman Kameron Misner finished fourth place in steals with 17 stolen bases.

Star right-handed pitchers TJ Sikkema and Andy Toelken finished seventh and eighth with their respective 2.72 and 2.80 ERAs. Both players figure to play a major role for Missouri next season, as each made starts as well as routine bullpen appearances this year.

Moving forward

One of the biggest reasons for optimism next season for the Tigers is the players they return. Harris, Misner, Sikkema and Toelken are all likely to come back next year. With a year of SEC experience under their belts, Tiger fans should expect each to improve on their performances in 2018.

Though juniors Tanner Houck, Bryce Montes De Oca and Brett Bond are MLB draft eligible and likely won’t be on the roster next season, the returning stars, paired with a squad that carries plenty of depth overall, could see Missouri emerge as a contender in the SEC.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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