Tiger lineup coming to life

After an April 21 loss to the Jayhawks, the Tigers' offense is shaping up.
Spencer Pearson / Graphic Designer

Missouri baseball seems to have found some answers to its offensive woes after winning five of their last seven games since being shut out by Kansas. Coach Tim Jamieson has used 42 different starting lineups in 43 games this season, the only repeat coming on April 16 and 17 against Oklahoma State.

Senior shortstop Michael Liberto, batting in the leadoff spot, has been a constant in the Tiger lineup. Liberto got off to a fast start hitting at the bottom of the order and has been the Tigers' leadoff hitter since mid-March.

“I’ve always been a scrappy player,” Liberto said. “I’ve been a leadoff hitter since I was twelve years old, so I know what I need to do.”

Liberto is batting .358 and had two hits and three RBIs in Missouri’s win over Missouri State on Tuesday.

Senior first baseman Aaron Senne, batting third, and junior third baseman Brett Nicholas, batting fourth, have also been constant in the Tiger order.

Senne, who broke the all-time hits record at Missouri on Sunday, is batting .419 with 12 home runs this season. Nicholas has been almost as good, batting .380 with nine home runs, including a three-run shot Tuesday night.

Together, Senne and Nicholas have 132 hits this season, and the Tigers have been able to score runs when they have had men on base.

“Any time you get a guy on in front of Senne, you know you’re going to have a good inning,” Nicholas said.

Getting runners on base in front of Senne has been an issue for the Tigers, who have used many different hitters in the second spot in the batting order this season. But the Tigers seem to have found their man in sophomore outfielder Ryan Gebhart. Gebhart has had a hit in all 10 games since returning from an injury and has been batting second in the past four games.

“I love the two hole,” Gebhart said. “It’s a blast being up in the top. (Pitchers) want to throw to me, so they’re going to give me pitches to hit, and I really like that because it's easy to go up there knowing you’re going to get something to hit.”

Jamieson said he plans to stick with Gebhart in that spot.

“He’s done very well in that spot,” Jamieson said. “That’s a spot in the lineup where we have struggled all year. It's been a black hole. Ryan has been a guy who has been getting on base and driving in some runs, and that’s what you need in that spot.”

Missouri has scored 44 runs in the four games in which Liberto, Gebhart, Senne and Nicholas were the first four hitters. But with nobody else batting higher than .300, Jamieson will likely continue to play with the batting order.

“Roles continually evolve,” Jamieson said. “We don’t have a big league roster where guys have been doing the same thing for many years. As the team starts to move one direction, individual roles can change.”

The Tiger offense will be tested this weekend against Kansas in Lawrence. The last time the two teams met, the Jayhawks shut out Missouri 1-0.

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