The small details, as in type of grass used in the infield and the design of the jerseys, are changing. The big details, as in the conference affiliation, have also changed.
But none of those changes compare to those that head coach Tim Jamieson faces as the Tigers begin fall ball, as he is charged with the responsibility of replacing over half of the starting lineup from the final game that last year’s Big 12 Championship squad fielded.
Specifically, Jamieson has a lot of work to do to replace the players in the middle of the field defensively for Mizzou. From last year’s final game’s starting lineup, he must replace catcher Ben Turner, Big 12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player shortstop Eric Garcia, and center fielder Blake Brown.
The lone returnee from the middle of the field is second baseman Dillon Everett, but his offensive difficulties (.215/.336/.251) could lead to open competition for the spot in the fall.
Jamieson will also have to find answers on the mound, as the Tigers return just one proven starter from last season, junior Rob Zastryzny. Brandon Platts, John Miles, and Brett Graves, all sophomores, should vie for the two weekend spots that remain open in the absence of Eric Anderson, who will sit until he has recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Out of the bullpen, Mizzou must replace key contributors Jeff Emens and Dusty Ross. Emens was the long reliever last season for the Tigers and frequently put out rallies before they could really start. Ross tallied three saves after taking over ninth-inning duty from Jake Walsh mid-season.
Ryan Yuengel proved his worth out of the bullpen last year as a consistent arm, and his performance this season could be key as well. Second-round pick from the MLB Draft Alec Rash could also figure into the discussion of relievers.
The Tigers will also have to replace third baseman Conner Mach and first baseman/DH Andreas Plackis, who became a hot bat in the second half of last season.
More than a month of practices and games will surely bring some clarity for the Mizzou baseball program, but right now there are a lot of questions that need answers as the Tigers prepare for life in the SEC.