The Missouri Tigers wanted to get to the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.
Now they want to do something with that opportunity.
The Tigers (18-31 overall, 10-20 SEC) are the No. 12 seed in the event and will face fifth-seeded Mississippi State (40-16) in the final of four tournament games today in Hoover, Ala.
"We are excited to be here just to continue to play," Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson said Monday. "First year in the SEC with a chance to play in the tournament and it is a great opportunity for our guys. We have struggled most of the year, but we are playing better lately.
"We're obviously just excited about having the opportunity to see what this is all about."
The Tigers will start ace Rob Zastryzny against the Bulldogs. Zastryzny, a left-hander, is just 2-9 on the season, but has a 3.64 ERA in a team-leading 812â„3 innings. He has 75 strikeouts to go along with only 22 walks.
Zastryzny, projected to be selected in the top 10 rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft next month, is 4-1 in five postseason games with the Tigers.
Jamieson isn't worried about getting a good performance from Zastryzny. It's the Tiger offense that has him concerned.
"We're still going to have to score runs and that has been our biggest issue," he said. "Rob has been great for his entire career at our place. He is going to be a high draft at the end of the year and he has a good professional career ahead of him and he'll compete and do fine, but we have to score runs."
Missouri and Mississippi State did not play in the conference season, so the Bulldogs are unfamiliar with Zastryzny.
"Certainly, the thing that is in front of us right now is a really solid Missouri club that is resurgent a little bit in the last few weeks," Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. "Just looking at their stuff and looking at the left-hander that we are going to face, he is going to be a really tough challenge for us. I have heard from several sources that he is the type of kid that could end up in the first five rounds."
Missouri is looking to continue a recent run of success in conference tournaments. In their last three Big 12 Tournaments, the Tigers posted a 9-3 record, which includes two appearances in the conference title game. Missouri captured the title last season.
Cohen knows all about Missouri's tournament success. He spent several seasons as Tiger assistant, first under under Gene McArtor and then Jamieson.
"I know that it is no shock that Tim's club plays well in the postseason because he and his staff do such a great job," Cohen said. "I consider Tim to be one of my closest friends. I've learned so much from him having been with him at Missouri and again, it is no surprise that his teams do well in the postseason because he is such a good postseason coach."
In the SEC Tournament, today will feature games with teams seeded 5-12 meeting in a single-elimination format. The four winners will then advance to double-elimination play starting Wednesday.
The Missouri-Mississippi State game will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 4:30 p.m. contest between eighth-seeded Florida and ninth-seeded Texas A&M.