No. 24 Missouri set to square off with No. 23 Tennessee
It’s a matchup Southeastern Conference baseball fans have been waiting for. The No. 24 Tigers are heading to Knoxville, Tennessee, to take on the No. 23 Volunteers this weekend, and this series should be a fun one.
For starters, the teams are similar in many ways. Both are known for their strong pitching, and have fared similarly in SEC play. Tennessee is 31-14 (9-12 SEC), while Missouri stands at 31-15-1 (10-10-1 SEC).
The Tigers are feeling good after sweeping South Carolina last weekend and clobbering Southeast Missouri 21-6 on Wednesday night. The Volunteers, on the other hand, were just swept by No. 6 Arkansas on the road and did not play a midweek game. Still, Tennessee will have the home field advantage, which Missouri head coach Steve Bieser predicts will be a significant factor.
“It’s going to be a really good series,” Bieser said after the Tigers’ win over South Carolina on Sunday. “They’re on their home field, and when you talk about pitching, they can match us with pitching, and you talk about team play, they’re right there. You’ve got two teams that are equally talented. It’s going to be tough because we’re at their place.”
How has Tennessee done so far?
While the Tigers have had slightly more success in conference play, the Volunteers’ schedule has been a doozy. They suffered series losses to No. 3 Vanderbilt and No. 6 Mississippi State but picked up one win in each matchup, and they were swept by Auburn.
Tennessee’s three SEC series wins have come against No. 8 Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky. Missouri swept South Carolina and went 2-1 against Kentucky, while the Volunteers swept Kentucky and went 2-1 against South Carolina. The kicker is each team’s matchup with the Bulldogs: Tennessee claimed a 2-1 series win at home, while the Tigers were swept on the road. All things considered, these two clubs are pretty evenly matched.
Players to watch for
Alerick Soularie — IF/OF
Soularie leads the Tennessee offense with a .363 average and a .659 slugging percentage. In 44 games this season, the sophomore has recorded a team-best 49 hits, as well as 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 31 RBI. Not too shabby.
The Houston native spent his freshman season at San Jacinto, where he played with Missouri’s Jacob Cantleberry, Peter Zimmermann, Lukas Veinbergs, Trey Dillard and Jake Matheny. We’ll see how he fares against so many familiar faces.
Garrett Stallings — RHP
This one was a no-brainer. Stallings is the Volunteers’ best arm by far, and he’s got the numbers to show for it. In 11 appearances this year, the junior has racked up 75 strikeouts while allowing just 11 walks. He boasts a 2.71 ERA and 1.14 WHIP – impressive for a starter.
It’s worth noting, however, that Stallings is coming off a rough outing in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The righty gave up 10 hits and eight runs in 3.1 innings pitched, while notching just three strikeouts. With Stallings’ confidence likely lower than usual, the Tigers just might be catching him at the right time when they face him on Friday.