BRANSON MO NEWS: COLUMBIA, MO. • After falling just short of the NCAA postseason last spring in his debut season, Missouri baseball coach Steve Bieser isn’t backing down from what’s been his stated goal since taking over the program.“When I took the job I thought anything short of regional play is not acceptable,” he said this week. “We’ve got to find ways to win 35, 40 games and get into a regional.”The Tigers made dramatic improvement under Bieser’s watch last season, finishing 36-23 overall and 14-16 in the rugged Southeastern Conference. In 2016, MU’s final year under longtime coach Tim Jamieson, Mizzou was 26-30 with just nine conference wins. With a pitching staff headlined by Tanner Houck, the Boston Red Sox’s first-round selection in last summer’s MLB draft, the Tigers made their biggest strides at the plate, increasing their extra-base hits by 30 percent and lifting the team slugging percentage 43 points. Even though Houck’s numbers fell off some from his strong sophomore season, Mizzou sported the SEC’s second-lowest staff ERA at 3.69, the team’s lowest since 2006.
As Bieser’s second season starts Friday in Miami with a three-game series against Florida International, the Tigers feature an overhauled roster with 21 newcomers but plenty of experience. The lineup returns five of six everyday players who started at least 50 games last year, led by the club’s top offensive threats: catcher Brett Bond and outfielders Trey Harris and Kameron Misner. Bond, from Westminster Academy in St. Louis, was a 23rd-round choice by the Astros in last summer’s MLB draft but chose to return for his senior season after a career year that saw him smack 10 home runs with 45 RBIs.“For him to come back and lead this pitching staff and have that experience is really crucial,” said Bieser, who …
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