The No. 25 Texas Longhorns built an early five-run lead and held off a late surge by the Missouri Tigers to take the Big 12 Conference baseball series opener 6-4 on Friday evening at Taylor Stadium.
The Longhorns pounced on the Tigers for a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. Jacob Felts laced a leadoff single through the right side of the infield and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Silver, Jordan Etier followed with a leadoff double to the gap in left centerfield to stake Texas to a 1-0 lead.
Texas tacked on two runs in the top of the third. With one out, Weiss reached on an infield single and Jonathan Walsh followed by depositing a 1-0 offering over the fence in left centerfield for to give the Horns a 3-0 advantage.
The Longhorns’ lead ballooned to 5-0 with two runs in the fifth. With two outs, Walsh drew a walk and stole base. Felts doubled to the gap in left centerfield to plate Walsh for the 4-0 lead. Silver flared a single over the glove of a leaping Tigers’ first baseman into rightfield driving in Felts for the five-run advantage.
Missouri began to chip away at the Longhorns’ lead in the home half of the fifth. Andreas Plackis hit a wall-banger to left centerfield to start the frame for the Tigers’ first hit of the game. With one out, Case Munson drew a walk to put runners on the corners. Parker French exited with an apparent elbow injury and was relieve by Hoby Milner. Milner was called for a balk, allowing Plackis to score. Milner got out of the frame without further damage done and the Horns led 5-1 after five complete innings.
Blake Brown drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth and scored on an RBI double to the gap in left centerfield by Ben Turner. A deep fly ball Conner Mach pushed Turner to third and he scored on a groundout to first base by Dane Opel, trimming the Texas lead to 5-3.
For the third consecutive inning, Missouri benefited from an early extra-base hit to carve into the Longhorns’ advantage. Eric Garcia hit a leadoff double to left centerfield and moved to third on a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt by Sal Belfonte. Dillon Everett knocked Garcia in with a grounder to shortstop which was mishandled by Etier, cutting the margin to 5-4. Milner fanned Brannon Champagne swinging and Corey Knebel entered the game to strikeout Brown swinging to end the inning.
Texas added an insurance run in the top of the eighth. With two outs, Kevin Lusson reached on an error by Mach at third base. Marlow singled up the middle to drive Missouri starter Rob Zastryzny from the game. Tigers’ reliever Jake Walsh walked Tim Maitland to load the bases and hit Mark Payton to push in the unearned run and give Texas a 6-4 lead.
Missouri got the go-ahead runner to the plate in the ninth following infield hits by Garcia and Everett, but Knebel baited Champagne into bouncing back to the mound for the final out of the game.
French (6-2) was credited with the win despite the early exit. He allowed just one run on one hit and two walks while striking out three over 4.1 innings. Knebel earned his ninth win of the season with 2.1 innings of shutout relief. He allowed two infield hits while fanning two.
Zastryzny (4-3) was saddled with the loss, yielding six runs, five earned, on nine hits and three walks while striking out three over 7.2 innings.
Felts, Silver and Marlow each logged two hits for Texas who registered nine on the evening. Walsh and Felts both scored two runs and Walsh delivered two RBI.
Garcia was the lone Tiger with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with one double and one run.
The Longhorns and Tigers return to action on Saturday with a 1 p.m. game at Taylor Stadium.