COLUMBIA — With his team needing a win Tuesday night to keep its season alive and advance in the Southeastern Conference tournament, Missouri baseball coach Tim Jamieson will see a familiar face staring across from him on the diamond.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Turns out No. 12 seed Missouri’s first-round opponent, fifth-seeded Mississippi State, is led by John Cohen, who coached under Jamieson as the primary hitting coach and recruiting coordinator at MU from 1995-97.
“I am looking forward to it … John and I didn’t get a chance to compete against each other this year — we didn’t play Mississippi State in the regular season,” Jamieson said. “I’m anxious to see John’s reaction more than anything.”
Cohen, whose team enters with a 40-16 record (compared to 18-31 for MU), was equally excited to go head-to-head against his old friend.
“I consider Tim to be one of my closest friends,” said Cohen, who started coaching at MU in 1991. “I’ve learned so much from him having been with him at Missouri.”
Given the teams’ records. Mississippi State would certainly appear to have the advantage, at least on paper. But Missouri has played better of late, going 3-2 in its last five games, and should have staff ace Rob Zastryzsny — who enters with a 2-9 record but a solid 3.64 ERA — fully rested and ready to go.
“He is a guy that can get the swing and miss and he is a guy that is…the real deal,” Cohen said. “If we aren’t ready for him, he is the type of guy that can beat you.”
But Jamieson pointed out that to have a chance, Missouri’s offense — which ranks dead last in the SEC in batting average (.248) and runs (195) — better wake up.
“We’re still going to have to score runs and that has been our biggest issue,” Jamieson said. “Rob has been great for his entire career at our place. He is going to be a high draft (pick) at the end of the year and he has a good professional career ahead of him … but we have to score runs.”
The game will take place after eighth-seeded Florida and ninth-seeded Texas A&M square off at 4:30 p.m. at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala. The winner will advance to the next round, where fourth-seeded South Carolina awaits as the tournament shifts to a double-elimination format.
“We have struggled most of the year, but we are playing better lately,” Jamieson said. “We’re obviously just excited about having the opportunity to see what this is all about.”