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The Missouri baseball team will take the field against Jacksonville State for the first time in 21 years on Friday to begin the 2020 season.

The Tigers lead the all-time series against the Gamecocks 3-0 and will look to extend that record to start head coach Steve Bieser’s fourth season in charge.

In the teams’ last matchup on April 3-4, 1999, the Tigers swept the Gamecocks at Taylor Stadium in a three-game series, with Missouri outscoring Jacksonville State 30-13.

However, many years have passed since then, and the Tigers are prepared for an improved program come Friday. The Gamecocks are coming off a 39-23 season that ended with an Ohio Valley Conference championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

“We’re running into a very good opponent on opening weekend,” Bieser said. “They’re a very solid team … they’re very, very competitive.”

Not only are the Tigers facing an unfamiliar opponent this weekend, but unfamiliar turf as well. The team’s trip to Jacksonville, Alabama marks the first time in five years that Missouri has not kicked off its season in Florida.

“I’m not sure exactly how our guys will respond on day one,” Bieser said. “But I can tell you they’re ready to play, they want to go out, they’re ready to leave today, so I look for us to respond really well.”

After losing former shortstop Chris Cornelius (Philadelphia Phillies) and center fielder Kameron Misner (Miami Marlins) to the MLB Draft, many new faces are set to comprise Missouri’s starting fielders.

According to a release from Missouri Athletics, the probable infield starters for the Tigers are: 1B Brandt Belk, 2B Mark Vierling, SS Austin James and 3B Luke Mann. The probable outfield starters are: LF Alex Peterson, CF Seth Halvorsen and RF Thomas Broyles. The probable starting catcher is Chad McDaniel.

Missouri’s pitching staff also took a hit from last season with stars TJ Sikkema (New York Yankees) and Cameron Dulle (St. Louis Cardinals) were swept away in the draft as well. Now, new starter Konnor Ash will step in alongside fellow starters Ian Bedell and Art Joven.

With so many changes and rearrangements made from last season, Bieser is eager to assess how the 2020 Tigers performed on the field after the weekend is over.

“I think we’ll get a really good feel of where we’re at as a team,” Bieser said. “We’ll know a lot after week one.”

The Tigers will begin their three-game series against the Gamecocks at 3 p.m. Friday in Jacksonville, Alabama, at Rudy Abbott Field. The teams will continue the series in two additional day games at 3 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

All three matchups can be streamed online on ESPN+ and will be broadcast on KTGR.

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.

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