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August 7, 2007

Rising programs: No. 4 Missouri

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    With fall workouts in the not too distant future, we continue our inside look at many programs around the country.

    In our latest series, we breakdown the nation's Top 10 Rising Programs.

    Though the top spot won't be unveiled until later this week, we continue the countdown with a team that is still making the upward climb - Missouri.

    After reaching the Super Regional round in 2006, the Tigers entered 2007 with even more to prove. Not only did Missouri finish second in the Big 12, they also hosted a Regional for the first time in over 40 years.

    With another successful season in the books, the Tigers should enter fall workouts with higher expectations. The future is bright at Missouri.

    Rising Programs: No. 4 Missouri
    Why are they rising?
    Just a few seasons ago, Missouri was a team that occasionally left its mark on the college baseball community. However, times are changing for coach Tim Jamieson and his surging program. The Tigers caught the attention of many three seasons ago when they tallied an impressive 40-23 overall record in addition to a 16-11 conference mark. The Tigers also reached the NCAA Tournament, where they competed in the Fullerton Regional. In 2006, the Tigers ended the year with an unimpressive 35-28 record, but found a way to advance to the Super Regional round. After making a splash in '06, the Tigers took their game to another level by finishing second in the Big 12 and hosting a Regional. Despite losing the Regional to Louisville, the Tigers made a statement and have once again set the stage for future success.

    2007 Year in Review
    After losing weekend starters Max Scherzer and Nathan Culp to the professional ranks, Missouri entered 2007 with some holes to fill on the mound. But even with the question marks, coach Tim Jamieson and the Tigers were confident in their ability to put together a formidable weekend rotation. To no surprise, the Tigers did just that with sophomore right-hander Aaron Crow leading the charge. Crow was 9-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 117 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out 90 and walked 33. While Crow led the way on the mound, the Tigers were led at the plate by Evan Frey, who finished the year hitting a team-high .348. Though Missouri failed to impress during non-conference play, conference play was a different story. After compiling a 19-8 league record, the Tigers hosted a Regional. There, they lost the title game to surprising Louisville.

    What the future holds
    Despite losing their top two hitters to the MLB Draft, the Tigers should enter the 2008 season with high expectations. Though replacing Evan Frey and Brock Bond could be a tough chore, the Tigers return the bulk of their lineup with power hitter Jacob Priday leading the charge. Missouri also welcomes back the talented sophomore duo of Trevor Coleman and Aaron Senne, while juniors Kyle Mach and Ryan Lollis are expected to increase their offensive production. While Mizzou's offensive lineup is expected to produce at a high rate in '08, the pitching staff might be even more impressive. Not only do the Tigers welcome back ace right-hander Aaron Crow, they also return junior right-hander Ian Berger and left-hander Rick Zagone. Talented sophomore Kyle Gibson is also back in the mix. With its future brighter than ever, Missouri should make a run at the College World Series in 2008.

    Kendall's analysis
    Missouri has been one of the nation's most underrated programs during the past few seasons. They can thank long-time head coach Tim Jamieson for that. The Tigers made a splash three seasons ago, but put together a less than stellar overall record two seasons ago. Even during that year, the Tigers reached the Super Regional round, where they lost to Cal State Fullerton. In 2007, the Tigers had one of the nation's most impressive teams and finished Big 12 play with high marks. Though Mizzou was unable to win the Columbia Regional, they made a significant statement by hosting a Regional. Now the Tigers must take the next step and get to Omaha.

    Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at kendall@rivals.com.