MU-UT: Battle at the Top

By Glenn Tanner - May 04, 2007

When this season's Big XII schedule was released, it's doubtful that anyone circled this series and said, "That's going to determine the conference championship."

But as the late, great Gomer Pyle would say, "SOOO-PRIZE, SOOO-PRIZE, SOOOO-PRIZE!!!!!"

Texas was the preseason Big XII favorite, and they've held serve so far. The Horns lead the Big XII with a 17-4 conference record, and two wins this weekend would clinch the title.

But Missouri was a whole 'nother story. The 2006 Tigers had their most successful season since the 60's, winning the Pepperdine Regional before losing to Fullerton in the Supers. But the pro draft hit Mizzou hard, particularly on the pitching staff -- Max Scherzer was drafted in the first round and Nathan Culp went in the fourth -- and the Big XII coaches had the Tigers eighth in their preseason poll. But here they sit in second place with a 12-6 conference record and 31-12 overall.

That 31-12 record is the only thing gaudy about the Tigers. They don't hit particularly well (.285 as a team), they have no real sluggers (two players are tied for the team lead in homers with 5), and the pitching staff hasn't been exactly dominant (5.87 conference ERA). In fact, Mizzou has actually been outscored in the Big XII 114-109.

So how in the name of Bobo Brayton are they in second place? Well, being 6-0 in one-run games sure helps.

Aaron Crow starts on the hill tonight for Mizzou. Crow got his first career win in a 4-1 complete game against Pepperdine in the Regionals, and has picked up there this season. He's 6-2 with a dandy 2.55 ERA and has allowed only 64 hits in 81.1 innings. Jacob Priday is the Tigers' hottest hitter. He wrecked Texas Tech last week in a sweep, pounding three homers and three doubles to earn co-Player of the Week conference honors.

Mizzou stats

Texas is riding a six game winning streak and is coming off the biggest weekend of their season -- a three game sweep at Oklahoma State, the first in the 26-year history of Reynolds Stadium by an opponent. The pitching staff was especially dominant, as the Cowboy bats, which had been averaging 8.9 runs per game, produced only four runs in the entire series. James Russell (8-3, 3.65 ERA) takes the mound tonight for Texas, while the offense is led by CSTV Player of the Year favorite Kyle Russell (24 HR, .364 BA, .884 SLG).

Texas stats

It's 84 degrees and naaaaaaasty humid here, with a slight breeze blowing out towards left. First pitch at 6:05. Back in a few innings with updates.

Posted by Glenn Tanner at 06:36 PM on May 04, 2007

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