Missouri baseball drops first series of the season against Arkansas

The Tigers had their nation-leading 20-game winning streak snapped on Friday and lost again Sunday.

Florida catcher Mike Rivera, 4, rounds the bases behind outfielder Nelson Maldonado, 27, after a two-run homer to left field in the sixth inning to increase the Gator lead at Taylor Stadium on Friday, March 31, 2017. The Gators won by a final of 4–3.

Throughout his team’s 20-game winning streak, coach Steve Bieser said he was happy his No. 18 Missouri Tigers baseball team was winning but that he was focused more on preparing them for when they inevitably faced adversity.

That adversity came this weekend, as Missouri had its second-longest winning streak in program history snapped in a 9-2 loss on Friday to the Arkansas Razorbacks at Taylor Stadium. Missouri responded with a strong team effort and a 7-2 victory on Saturday before falling 9-8 in the series finale on Sunday.

The series loss was the first of the season for the Tigers, who fell to 21-3 on the season and 4-2 in Southeastern Conference play. Meanwhile, with the series win, Arkansas (20-5, 5-1) will most likely move into the top 25 this week, having won 13 of their last 15 games.

Friday’s game was one the Tigers will most likely want to forget. Star junior righthander Tanner Houck entered the game on a 21.1-inning scoreless streak but surrendered five runs (three earned) in the second inning. He lasted just three and two thirds innings for Missouri, his shortest outing of the season. The team’s bullpen was also less than stellar, surrendering four runs (three earned) over five and a thirds innings.

After Friday’s game, Bieser said he hoped his team would respond well after what he called its “worst-played game all season long.” The Tigers did just that on Saturday, riding four innings of solid relief work from freshman phenom T.J. Sikkema and a six-run sixth inning to victory. Sikkema, who had his 29.2 innings shutout streak snapped, earned his fifth win of the season.

In addition to Sikkema’s pitching, Missouri also got home runs from juniors Robbie Glendinning and Nelson Mompierre and sophomore Brian Sharp in Saturday’s game. Glendinning and Sharp went back-to-back, while Mompierre connected on a two-run blast, his second homer of the season. All three long balls came in the Tigers’ six-run sixth.

The Razorbacks flipped the script on the Tigers on Sunday, hitting three homers of their own en route to a three-run second inning and a four-run fourth. Arkansas’ potent bats put the game just out of reach for the Tigers, who got the tying run on base in the ninth but were unable to bring it home.

Next up for the Tigers is a 3 p.m. game March 28 against Southeast Missouri State, in Columbia. The team will continue SEC play next weekend, when they host the No. 13 Florida Gators for a three-game series.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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