Mizzou baseball falters in Sikkema's first start
COLUMBIA, Mo - Missouri baseball dropped its series opener Friday night to South Carolina, 4-3, in freshman T.J. Sikkema's first start of the season.
Mizzou's usual closer, Sikkema started in place of junior Tanner Houck, who had his next start pushed back to Saturday. Sikkema entered the game leading the Tigers in ERA (2.39), opposing batting average (1.72), wins (seven) and saves (four).
Sikkema (7-1) retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced to get through four scoreless innings. The Tiger offense gave him a two-run lead in the third on a RBI triple by freshman Chris Cornelius and a wild pitch that would've been the final out of the inning on a swinging strike three, but instead allowed senior Kirby McGuire to reach base and Cornelius to score from third.
The fifth inning proved to be more difficult for Sikkema. The first three Gamecock batters of the fifth all reached base, the last being a double from junior catcher Hunter Taylor, to drive in two and tie the game. Sikkema retired the next three batters to exit the inning.
South Carolina (29-20, 12-13 SEC) broke through again in the sixth inning. Sikkema retired the first two Gamecock batters he faced before walking junior Alex Destino. First-year Mizzou coach Steve Bieser decided to go to his bullpen, calling on redshirt-junior Cole Bartlett to finish the inning. The first batter Bartlett faced, junior third baseman Jonah Bride hit a two-run homer to left-center to give South Carolina a 4-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish and put Sikkema on the hook.
Sikkema's final line: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
Mizzou (29-21, 9-16 SEC) rallied in the eighth inning. Sophomore Connor Brumfield, a Columbia native, hit a RBI double to cut the deficit to one. With two men on and two out, freshman Kameron Misner grounded out to second base to strand the runners.
Wil Crowe (5-4) earned the win for South Carolina, striking out nine and allowing just four hits in seven innings. Junior Tyler Johnson retired Misner in the eighth and set down the ninth to earn his ninth save of the season.
With the loss, the Tigers are two games back of Ole Miss in the overall SEC standings.
Houck will start Saturday in what will likely be his final home appearance, followed by Bryce Montes de Oca in the finale Sunday. First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.