Bears Topple Nationally-Ranked Golden Eagles to Improve to 4-1
Feb. 23, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Missouri State took advantage of three Southern Miss throwing errors to build a three-run lead, then rode the right arms of Nick Petree and Grant Gordon to a 5-1 victory over the 28th-ranked Golden Eagles at Pete Taylor Park Saturday evening. Petree struck out seven hitters and allowed just five hits over seven innings to notch his first win of the season, while Gordon wrapped up the victory and his first save in more than a year with two scoreless innings of relief.
Despite giving up just one run, Petree (1-0) was forced to work his way out of trouble frequently, as USM put at least one runner in scoring position in five of his seven innings of work. The junior right-hander would strand a pair of baserunners in the second, sixth and seventh innings, coming up with inning-ending strikeouts in two of those frames.
The Bears' offense also came up big in clutch situations, finishing with a season-high nine hits. Travis McComack turned in his best offensive performance of the season with a 3-for-4 night, and Tate Matheny posted his second two-hit effort in the last three games. Additionally, Eric Cheray went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored to snap out of an early-season slump.
Missouri State (4-1) was the first to break the scoring seal, capitalizing on a Keenen Maddox one-out double to take a 1-0 lead. After Maddox's drive into the right-centerfield gap got the ball rolling, Drehoff nearly worked his way out of the inning, getting Luke Voit to bounce out to third for the second out. But Peebles lined the left-hander's first pitch back through the box, and Maddox trotted home with the game's first run.
The Bears stretched their lead to 3-0 the following inning thanks to a series of Southern Miss miscues. McComack delivered the first blow with a lead-off single to center, then moved to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt by catcher Chase Fowler. Drehoff fanned Patrick Drake for the first out, but another wild pitch brought McComack home for a 2-0 MSU advantage. After Cheray coaxed a walk, Fowler misfired to first on Dylan Becker's sacrifice bunt to put runners on the corners, and Matheny's infield single -- coupled with a throwing error by third baseman Bradley Roney -- allowed Cheray to score for a three-run Bears' cushion.
Southern Miss (4-2) finally broke through against Petree in the sixth, as Michael Sterling drew a lead-off walk, and Mason Robbins followed with a base hit to left to set the stage. An Issaac Rodriguez sacrifice advanced both runners, and Blake Brown's ground ball to third plated Sterling to make it a 3-1 contest. Petree walked Tim Lynch to put the tying run on base, but caught Roney looking at strike three for the final out of the inning.
The Golden Eagles would have generate another scoring opportunity the next inning, using a walk and a Fowler single to put a pair of runners on base with nobody out. But once again, Petree maneuvered his way out of trouble against the heart of the USM order. He forced the lead runner at third on a bunt attempt by Dillon Day and coaxed a come-backer off the bat of Sterling, before getting Robbins on a first-pitch pop-up to short to end the inning.
Gordon would take over from there, using just five pitches to get through the eighth inning and rolling a double-play ball in the ninth after beaning the leadoff man.
MSU would push across two more runs in a ninth-inning rally spearheaded by McComack's third hit of the day - a lead-off double to deep right-center. Cheray drove him home with a one-hopper that bounded over the first baseman for a run-scoring single, and Matheny came through with a two-out blast off the wall in right for an RBI double that completed the scoring.
With the save, Gordon moved into a tie for eighth place on the Bears' all-time saves list with the ninth of his MSU career.
The victory handed the Bears their best start to a season since 2008, when they began the year 5-1. It also snapped a 10-game MSU losing streak in the series with Southern Miss, dating back to the 1998 season.
Drehoff (0-1) suffered the loss for USM after allowing three runs on five hits over 4.1 innings. Cameron Giannini provided one bright spot for the Golden Eagles, fanning a career-high seven Bears in four innings of relief.
The Bears conclude their stay at the Southern Miss Invitational with an 11 a.m. game Sunday against Eastern Illinois.