Bears Extend Win Streak with 5-4 Win Over SFA
Feb. 24, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Led by a career day at the plate from Spiker Helms and seven solid innings from Nick Petree, the Missouri State Bears overcame an early two-run deficit to knock off Stephen F. Austin, 5-4, Friday afternoon at the UTA Invitational. The Bears (3-2) pounded SFA pitching for a season-high 15 hits, including a 5-for-5 effort by Helms, to run their win streak to three games.
Helms doubled twice, scored the tying run in the sixth and drove in two key runs in the seventh. The Bears, who scored their last four runs courtesy of two-out rallies in the sixth and seventh innings, also got a big day from Keenen Maddox, who went 3-for-4 and scored a run.
With the Bears' offense clicking, Petree did his part on the mound. The sophomore right-hander limited the Lumberjacks to two runs on eight hits through the first seven innings before yielding a pair of runs on two more hits in the eighth.
Zach Merciez followed up Petree's effort with a strong two-inning relief performance to earn his first career save. The freshman retired six of the seven batters he faced, allowing just a one-out single in the ninth.
Both teams mounted early scoring opportunities but neither could capitalize, as Petree and SFA starter Chase Greening kept the game scoreless through three innings. The Bears wasted little time in generating a first-inning threat, getting back-to-back hits from Helms and Kevin Medrano to start the contest. After Brent Seifert bounced into a fielder's choice and Luke Voit flew out to left, Brock Chaffin reached on an infield single to load the bases.
Greening shut down the rally, however, getting Derek Mattea to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice.
Thanks to a walk and a Chris Hernandez single, SFA put runners on first and third with one out in the second. Petree worked out of the jam, turning a come-backer from Bryce Cummings into a 1-4-3 double play.
The Lumberjacks (1-4) broke the scoring seal in the fourth, striking for a pair of runs on three straight hits after Petree retired the first two batters of the frame. Bobby Loveless singled up the middle, and Max Lamantia belted the very next pitch off the centerfield wall for a run-scoring triple. Hernandez followed with a solid single to center to put SFA up 2-0.
Missouri State began its comeback in the home half of the fifth, cashing in on a throwing error by SFA shortstop Hunter Dozier. Chaffin's one-out base hit to right plated Seifert to make it a one-run contest, but the Bears left two more runners on base when Greening retired Maddox on a ground ball to second and Joey Hawkins on a fly to right.
Helms kicked-off the Bears' two-run rally in the sixth with a one-out double into the leftfield corner. With two out, Seifert beat out a grounder deep in the hole at short to allow Helms to score the equalizing run, then came around with the go-ahead tally on Voit's double to right-center.
The Bears tacked on two critical insurance runs in the seventh, thanks again to some shaky SFA defense. Maddox got the ball rolling with his third hit of the day, but it was Patrick Drake's grounder to third that provided the biggest boost for MSU, as Cummings couldn't glove it for what would have been the third out. Helms took advantage of the miscue, drilling the first pitch he saw from Reid Landers off the base of the wall in left-centerfield to chase home both Maddox and Drake for a 5-2 Bears lead.
The `Jacks clawed their way back into the game with two runs in the eighth. But Merciez, who entered with the bases loaded and nobody out, retired all three hitters he faced to preserve the MSU lead. The freshman right-hander fanned Lamantia on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning, stranding the tying run at third.
In the ninth, Merciez gave up a one-out hit to pinch hitter Jordan Lenaburg, but promptly retired Zach Benson and Rory Myers to close out the Bears' third straight victory.
The Bears and `Jacks will meet for the second time Friday at 6 p.m. MSU will take on host UTA at 3 p.m. Saturday, before wrapping up tournament play Sunday morning at 11 a.m., against Houston Baptist.