By: Ben Burke
Missouri baseball had no answer for Kentucky starting pitcher Sean Hjelle Friday night, as the Tigers had their four-game win streak broken with a 5-2 loss.
Hjelle, who stands at 6’11”, easily handled the Missouri lineup. He spread five hits over seven shutout innings, racking up eight strikeouts.
It took the Tigers until the ninth inning to get on the scoreboard with solo home runs from Trey Harris and Brett Bond.
Missouri’s Tanner Houck, on the other hand, didn’t fair as well. The Tiger ace allowed all five Wildcat runs in eight innings pitched, while walking two batters and hitting three others with pitches.
One issue Houck had throughout much of the early part of the game was getting the first batter out.
After Houck stranded leadoff singles in each of the first two innings, the Wildcats got to him in the third.
Kentucky started the inning with two walks and a double to load the bases with no outs.
Houck was able to get Kentucky left fielder Zach Reks to ground into the double play, but sacrificed a run on the play.
The Wildcats weren’t done there. Riley Mahan kept the scoring going to start the fourth with a solo home run just over the wall in left center field to extend the Wildcat led to two.
It took Houck until the fifth inning to retire the first hitter he faced in an inning.
Getting the first guy didn’t help Houck that inning. An error from Brian Sharp led to an unearned run and a 3-0 Kentucky lead.
The fifth inning was also the first in which the Tigers got multiple runners on base.
Missouri had runners on first and second after a single and a walk, but a beautiful diving stop from shortstop Connor Heady to get the force out, as well as a Kameron Misner strikeout, got Hjelle out of his only real jam of the game.
Another issue plaguing Houck was giving up unearned runs. Out of the five runs Kentucky scored, only two of them were earned.
Two of those unearned runs came from errors by Brian Sharp and Kirby McGuire in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively.
With the loss, the Tigers fall to 25-10 on the season. Game two of the series is Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.