Mizzou baseball’s performance not enough to beat Kentucky

The Tigers battled hard on Easter weekend, but offensive and defensive inconsistencies led to a series loss.
Freshman Kameron Misner swings and misses during the home game facing Kentucky on April 14, 2017.

Missouri baseball dropped two of the three games against Southeastern Conference East division foe Kentucky over Easter weekend.

Friday’s game was promoted as a pitchers’ duel between Mizzou’s star starter, junior Tanner Houck, and Kentucky’s 6-foot-11 ace, Sean Hjelle. While both pitchers impressed, it was Hjelle who outshined his counterpart in a 5-2 Kentucky win.

Hjelle gave the Wildcats 7.0 shutout innings on only five hits. On the other side, Houck struck out seven batters in 8.0 innings of work, but he was also tapped for five runs by the Wildcats and was handed the loss.

Despite being credited with a loss, Houck was proud of his performance.

“I felt dominant with two pitches with a heavy lefty lineup,” Houck said. “I can’t be too down on myself. I thought I threw really well. I need to get the leadoff man more. Hindsight is 20-20, I guess.”

Junior outfielder Trey Harris hit three home runs, and junior catcher Brett Bond launched two of his own past the wall, in the second game of the series, edging out the Wildcats 9-8.

Harris was the star of the game, a distinction that, for him, comes second to the joy of the game itself.

“That last home run, I was smiling ear to ear because I am like, ‘What just happened, was that me?’” Harris said. “You just surprise yourself sometimes, and tonight was that night.”

The Tigers had an opportunity to win the series heading into Sunday’s rubber match but could not carry the momentum over into the third game of the series, resulting in a 6-1 loss.

The Tigers kept the game close until Kentucky exploded for a four-run sixth inning to open their lead to 6-1. The Tigers were shut out for the rest of the game and left Sunday without the series win.

Mizzou head coach Steve Bieser said he recognized a difference in energy level from Saturday’s game to Sunday, resulting in a letdown performance. Still, he felt the team showed flashes of being able to compete with nationally ranked competition, like Kentucky, but wasn’t consistent enough on either side of the ball.

“I thought the way we played Saturday, we can play with them,” Bieser said. “The way we played in games two or three, we can’t play with them. We have to rise to the occasion, and we have to play at that level if we want to be the team we say we want to be”.

The Tigers will look to bounce back during a midweek contest against Missouri State on Tuesday at Taylor Stadium. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. and can be seen on SEC Network+.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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