Red-Hot Cheray, Rock-Solid Hall Lead Bears to Third-Straight Win
Feb. 22, 2014
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Eric Cheray's grand slam capped a five-run Missouri State sixth inning, and Matt Hall worked seven strong innings to propel the Bears to a 6-1 victory over New Mexico Saturday evening at Lobo Field. With their third straight win - and their 40th in 57 all-time contests in Albuquerque - the Bears improved to 5-1 on the year.
Cheray, who went 4-for-5 Friday and 2-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run in Saturday's first game, provided MSU's lone hit in its decisive rally. The junior lined A.J. Carman's 1-1 offering down the right-field line for his first career grand slam that turned a one-run Bears' advantage into a 6-1 lead.
Hall cruised from that point, retiring the final eight batters he faced to defeat the Lobos for the second time in as many years on their home turf. In all, the sophomore lefty allowed one run on six hits and a pair of walks while striking out six UNM hitters, three of which came in his final two innings of work.
Freshman right-hander Bryan Young took over for Hall in the eighth and closed the deal by allowing just a walk and a single in two innings of work. In the two Missouri State wins Saturday, Bears' pitchers surrendered just 11 total hits and the one Lobo run in the second inning.
For Cheray, who added a single in the eighth, the two-hit game continued a strong weekend in Albuquerque. The Bears' second baseman has hit .615 (8-for-13) with the two home runs and nine runs batted-in for the tournament.
MSU's doubleheader sweep Saturday came despite being out-hit 7-4 by New Mexico and having to play without the services of two regulars in its outfield, as Patrick Drake and Tate Matheny were unavailable after colliding in shallow right-center in Friday's victory over Northern Illinois. One of three first-time starters in the Bears' outfield, freshman Alex Jefferson played a key role against the Lobos, recording a single, a pair of walks and two runs scored playing in place of Matheny in center.
For the third straight game in Albuquerque, the Bears jumped on top with a first-inning score, this time taking advantage of a lead-off walk to Jefferson to grab a 1-0 lead. Dylan Becker moved the runner into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and Spencer Johnson drove a run-scoring double off the wall in straight-away center.
The Lobos pulled even in the second thanks to a nice piece of two-out hitting by Ryan Padilla. A lead-off single, a fielder's choice grounder and a Cody Bower bouncer back to the mound moved Jared Holley into scoring position, and Padilla lined a Hall offering into right field to drive in the first Lobo run of the game.
Hall faced his biggest challenge in the fifth with the score still knotted at 1-1. UNM used a double by Andre Vigil and back-to-back walks - the only two issued by Hall - to load the bases with just one out. But Hall induced a soft pop up to Joey Hawkins at short for the second out, then got Alex Real to bounce innocently to Conor Smith at first to end the inning and swing the momentum in the Bears' favor for good.
MSU immediately responded in its half of the sixth, as Jefferson once again ignited the offense by drawing the first of three consecutive walks handed out by Lobos starter Colton Thomson and Carman. Smith's bouncer to second plated Jefferson to put MSU in front, and kept the bases full when Carman was charged with an error for missing the first base bag on the throw.
Cheray followed with his back-breaking blow, which marked the first grand slam for a Bear since Becker's bases-loaded blast against Bradley on April 20, 2013, and MSU's first in a true road contest since Aaron Conway delivered one at SEMO in 2010.
Thomson (0-1) suffered the loss for New Mexico despite five strong innings to begin the game. He completed 5 1/3 innings and allowed just two hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts.
Vigil and Chase Harris registered two-hit games for the Lobos, who dropped to 3-3 on the year.
The Bears conclude the weekend with another contest against the Lobos Sunday at 11 a.m. (Central).