MU to host its first regional in 42 years

Friday, June 1, 2007
Missouri's Brock Bond, left, was greeted by his teammates after scoring against Oklahoma State in the recent Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City. (Associated Press file)

The reward for a dominant regular season comes today for Missouri's baseball team, hosting an NCAA regional and carrying a top seed.

The Tigers' 40-16 record and second-place finish in the Big 12 conference far outweighed a 1-2 showing in the conference tournament. Ranked 14th by Baseball America and 18th by College Baseball newspapers, the Columbia, Mo., school is making its fifth straight NCAA appearance and hosting tournament play for the first time since taking two of three from Saint Louis in 1965.

"It's definitely awesome," leading hitter Evan Frey said. "We could be on the road like everybody else, but we get to be in our own backyard and sleep in our own bed, come out here and do what we've been doing all year."

Missouri opens against fourth-seed Kent State (33-24) tonight in the double-elimination tournament. Second-seed Miami (36-22), increasing its NCAA record to 35 straight appearances, plays third-seed Louisville (40-20) in the other first-round game.

First-round winners and first-round losers will be matched on Saturday.

Missouri starting pitcher Rick Zagone throws against Oklahoma State in the first inning of a NCAA Big 12 college baseball tournament game in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 26, 2007. Missouri won the game 13-1 in seven innings. (AP Photo)

Missouri had won 14 of 17 heading into the conference tournament. Its 19-8 conference showing is a school record for victories and the team was 18-4 at home.

Last year, Missouri won a regional in Malibu, Calif., as a fourth seed and finished only two victories shy of the College World Series. That'll help prevent the Tigers from overlooking any of their opponents.

"They keep that in perspective," coach Tim Jamieson said. "When you get to this point a lot of the times it's the guy on the mound that controls the game.

"And everybody has good pitching or they wouldn't be here."

Missouri outscored its opponents by 99 runs with an offense led by Jacob Priday (.299, 10 homers, 55 RBIs) and Frey (72 hits), balanced by a 1-2 pitching duo of Aaron Crow (8-3, 3.17) and Rick Zagone (7-2, 4.92). Crow and Zagone were key to last year's tournament run as freshmen, and the pair will get the starting assignments the first two games of this year's regional.

Miami begins the postseason on the road for the second straight season and only the fourth time in coach Jim Morris' 14 seasons. The Hurricanes have won 13 straight regionals and enter having won 10 of 13.

"It's one of the better traditions in college baseball that Ron Fraser established for the last 30 years," Morris said. "And I'm trying not to mess it up."

Like Missouri, Miami struggled in its conference tournament, going 1-2 in the ACC.

"We don't deserve to be at home," Morris said. "We haven't had as good as a season as our players would like or I would like, but we've played good at the end and that's what counts."

Miami's lineup features sophomore center fielder and leadoff man Blake Tekotte, who went to Columbia Hickman High School.

Kent State has won 16 of 17 and earned an automatic bid after winning the Mid-America Conference tournament. Big East pitcher of the year Zack Pitts (8-3, 1.78) leads

Louisville, which has set a school record for victories under first-year coach Dan McDonnell.

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