Sizzling Tigers alone atop Big 12 standings

Sunday, April 10, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:56 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Texas A&M had a good day Saturday. The Aggies started the game with a home run. They pounded out nine hits in five innings.

But they lost to the red-hot Missouri baseball team anyway.

The No. 23 Tigers clinched a win in their third straight Big 12 Conference series with a 7-3 victory against No. 18 Texas A&M at Taylor Stadium.

Missouri improved to 25-6 and 7-1 in the Big 12. Nebraska lost 11-4 to Texas earlier in the day, leaving Missouri in first place by itself.

“We’re just rolling right now,” starting pitcher Nathan Culp said. “That’s how it’s gotta be. We’re all pumped up right now, and we’re ready to go tomorrow.”

Texas A&M left fielder Todd Sebek led off the game with a home run to give the Aggies their first lead of the series, but the Tigers quickly answered in their half of the inning.

Junior Bryson LeBlanc started a four-run rally with a single to right field, and the Tigers retook the momentum they had from a 2-1 victory Friday night.

“Especially after their ace loses, and then they hit a home run to start the game, they think, ‘OK, today is our day,’” LeBlanc said. “And then the other team comes back and puts a four-spot on the board, that’s just tough to deal with.”

Culp was not at his best Saturday, but he got out of every jam he created.

In the third inning, MU left the bases loaded without scoring, and Texas A&M (22-12-1, 4-7 Big 12) pulled within 4-3 in the top of the fourth. The Aggies still had the bases loaded with one out, but Culp got Sebek to ground into a double play to end the inning and preserve the lead.

“They had the momentum and a chance to take the lead, and Culpy gets the double play,” MU coach Tim Jamieson said. “He didn’t pitch particularly well, but that was a huge pitch.”

Culp, who gave up nine hits in five innings but improved to 6-0, said he was lucky to get a win.

“I was battling today,” he said. “My ball was up a little bit, and I just let my defense do it, because they were swinging it.”

Another reason was junior Andrew Johnston, who came in the game and completely shut the door on Texas A&M. He pitched the last four innings without giving up a hit or a walk.

“I trust my stuff, and I felt good from the beginning,” he said. “I knew I was going to have success out there.”

Jamieson shook up the lineup, batting second baseman Zane Taylor second and moving first baseman Derek Chambers down to seventh.

LeBlanc went 2-for-4, getting his first hits in nearly two weeks.

“That’s my job,” he said. “I have to get on base. Last series, I struggled getting hits … I finally got out of a little mental rut I was in and I’m back having fun.”

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