Tepesch emerging as Missouri baseball ace

The junior righty earned his second straight win Sunday.
Missouri junior pitcher Nick Tepesch winds up for a pitch in the fourth inning Saturday at Taylor Stadium. Tepesch pitched for 7.2 innings, giving up only one run and striking out five batters.

Two months into the 2010 season, Missouri baseball had yet to find its star on the mound. But junior right-hander Nick Tepesch has made a case for the label of "ace."

Missouri's three-day, three-game series with Kansas State was condensed to a doubleheader Sunday after rain cancellations. In game one, Tepesch gave up one run in 7 2/3 to give the Tigers the 4-2 victory.

Junior catcher Ryan Ampleman had a good view of Tespesch's performance from behind the plate.

"He was perfect," Ampleman said. "Lights out. It was pitch after pitch after pitch while battling the elements with the cold and rain. It shows a lot about his character."

The third-year Tiger pitched his way out of a few jams; he allowed seven hits and walked six in the game. But his five strikeouts and forced ground balls helped Tepesch escape a few innings and strand the Wildcat base runners.

The win was his second straight, after he took down Oklahoma State on April 16. Both wins were hard earned; Tepesch started and threw for more than seven innings in each. In the win over the Cowboys, he allowed two runs on four hits and tied his season-high of eight strikeouts.

"He's only given up three runs to two pretty good offensive teams," coach Tim Jamieson said. "That helps our confidence when you have a big guy out there giving you a chance to win the first game."

Tepesch started the season hot, winning in his first two starts including a shutout of North Dakota on March 19. Then the righty fell off a bit, losing three consecutive conference matchups with Texas A&M, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Despite the losses, Tepesch didn't consider it a midseason slump.

"Even though I had those losses, I pitched late into those games, and I felt like my stuff was there the whole time," Tepesch said. "I didn't feel like I was struggling. I just wasn't getting any breaks."

With the recent hot streak, Tepesch improved to 4-3 on the season. Those seven decisions are the most on the team and further cements his role as the team's workhorse — a role Tepesch is grateful for.

"When you get that many innings it shows that your coaching staff has confidence in you," Tepesch said. "You just go out and do what you can."

After pitching in the shadow of junior Kyle Gibson last season, Tepesch has become the go-to guy for the Tigers this year. Although his 3.98 ERA isn't the best on staff, the junior has pitched more than 60 innings for Missouri and leads the team with 46 strikeouts. His work has earned him the role of game one pitcher for 2010.

The next start for the ace will most likely be in Missouri's road series with Texas Tech this weekend. The Tigers also take on Eastern Illinois at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon.

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