By Zach Garcia
The Missouri baseball team is preparing for its season-opening series at Southern Mississippi this weekend with some added nerves, following news of a tornado that struck part of the USM campus on Sunday afternoon.
The tornado touched down on campus in Hattiesburg, Miss., before following a path through a portion of the town. Much of USM’s student body was away from campus due to the Mardi Gras holiday and despite some reported damage to campus buildings, no student injuries have been reported. The school’s athletic facilities were also largely unaffected, and USM has announced that its baseball series with Missouri will go on as scheduled at Pete Taylor Park this weekend.
The Tigers will travel to Hattiesburg on Wednesday as scheduled, but the team is aware that the disaster adds a heavier node to their opening weekend.
“That’s so crazy to think,” outfielder Scott Sommerfeld said on Tuesday in response to the tornado aftermath. “I hope that everything’s okay, but we’re still going to have the same mindset coming down there ready to compete and I know those guys will be ready (and) a little fired up.”
Missouri has been observant of the natural disaster during their final preseason week, including the launch of the twitter hashtag, “#PrayforHattiesburg” in support of the team’s week one host.
Missouri junior Dillon Everett recalled the team’s other recent encounters with tornadoes, which most recently included being evacuated from L. Dale Mitchell Park in Norman, Okla. prior to a game against the Oklahoma Sooners in April 2012. A tornado eventually touched down three miles away from the stadium.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had two or three times when the tornadoes have followed us,” Everett said.
Missouri coach Tim Jamieson noted the fortune in USM’s holiday break, as well as the tornado’s trajectory away from much of the campus.
“The athletic facilities weren’t disturbed, our hotel wasn’t disturbed but it’ll be interesting to see what type of devastation was down there. Up here, we’ve seen it, with Joplin and Oklahoma,” Jamieson said. “We feel for them.”
Missouri’s first game in Hattiesburg will begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, with Rob Zastryzny on the mound for the Tigers. The three game series with Southern Mississippi also includes a 2 p.m. Saturday game and a 1 p.m. first pitch on Sunday.