Texas Drops Series Opener, 4-1, At Missouri

Missouri broke open a one-run game in the seventh with a two-run homer from Cody Ehlers off of UT starter <B>Sam LeCure </B>as No. 1 Texas (41-7, 13-5 Big 12) dropped a 4-1 decision to the Tigers (26-16-1, 5-10 Big 12) in the opener of a three-game series in Columbia Friday.

The Horns have now dropped consecutive conference games for the first time this season and are just a half-game ahead of surging Oklahoma State (28-14, 11-4) in the Big 12 standings. The Cowboys face Oklahoma Saturday in Oklahoma City at 1 p.m. with a chance to snag (at least temporarily) the league lead.

Missouri native LeCure shouldered his first loss of the season against six wins. The sophomore threw 127 pitches and equaled a career-high with eight strikeouts over 6-1/3 innings. Still, LeCure has lived on the edge the past couple of weeks, allowing Baylor and Nebraska to jump on him early. In those games, at least, Texas managed to plate some late-inning runs for come-from-behind wins. Friday night, it was not to be as the Longhorns managed just six hits and stranded 10. Over the last three games (one win, two losses), Texas has managed just eight total runs, with the clutch hitting so evident early in the season all but gone.

An infield single from Trevor Helms followed by a walk and a bad-hop double off of Chance Wheeless's shoulder by Ehlers produced a 1-0 Missouri lead in the bottom of the first. After LeCure worked out of the runners on second and third situation with one out in the opening frame via a strikeout and a groundout, UT would put two runners on in each of the next two frames. But each time MU starter Danny Hill managed to escape to keep the Tigers on top by one. The game remained 1-0 until the top of the fifth when a leadoff single from Robby Hudson eventually knotted the contest at 1-1 as a sacrifice bunt followed by a wild pitch and a two-out single off the bat of Curtis Thigpen plated Hudson. Quickly answering, the Tigers received three consecutive one-out singles, including a squeeze-bunt base hit from Ryan Rallo, in the bottom of the frame to pull in front by a score of 2-1.

After a scoreless sixth, the Horns would load the bases on three walks, but Hill again kept Mizzou in front by striking out Thigpen with runners on second and third with one out and forcing Seth Johnston into a pop up with two outs and the bases juiced. The Tigers then got the one-out, two-run home run from Ehlers in the bottom of the seventh to jump out to a 4-1 advantage. Attempting to rally, the Longhorns put their first two runners on in the eighth with a single and walk, but Tigers' reliever Taylor Parker got pinch hitter Michael Hollimon to hit into a double play before giving way to Mark Alexander, who struck out Hudson to end the frame. Alexander retired the Horns in order in the top of the ninth to seal the win and earn his seventh save of the season. Picking up the victory was Hill, who allowed only one run on five hits and struck out five over seven innings.

Hudson extended his hitting streak to a career-best eight games and scored UT's only run but he also stranded three runners. Johnston had a night to forget, stranding the other seven UT runners left on base over three at-bats.

The Longhorns and Tigers continue their three-game series on Saturday, 2 p.m. (CDT) with either ace J.P. Howell or Justin Simmons slated to take the hill for the Horns in what has turned into a crucial contest in terms of the team's league title hopes.

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