Balanced Offensive Attack Leads Bears to 12-3 Victory Over ACU
March 7, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas - For the second time in eight days, Missouri State kicked its offense into high gear against Abilene Christian, as the Bears pounded out 13 hits to go along with a season-high eight walks in a 12-3 victory to open play at the UTA Hilton Invitational at Clay Gould Ballpark.
Eric Cheray scored four times and drove in two runs with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, and Cody Schumacher scattered nine hits while striking out seven Wildcats over 6.0 innings of work to improve to 4-0 on the year. The senior right-hander yielded his first earned runs of the season, but locked down his 13th victory as a Bear after the MSU bullpen logged yet another strong performance to extend its scoreless streak to 15.1 consecutive innings.
The day got off to a rocky start for Schumacher, who brought a 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless inning streak into his third start of the year. ACU lead-off man Seth Spivey lined a double into the gap in left-center, then came all the way around when Aaron Draper laid down a sacrifice bunt and Schumacher's throw to first sailed over the head of Conor Smith.
Missouri State (8-3) answered in the top of the second, taking advantage of a touch of wildness by ACU starter Austin Lambright to begin a three-inning stretch that would see it reel off seven unanswered runs. Cheray reached base via a hit by pitch to start the inning, and Smith drew a walk before Lambright retired Patrick Drake on a tap in front of the plate and got Matt Fultz to chase a third strike for the second out. But Joey Hawkins kept the rally alive by coaxing a walk, and Matt Dezort lined a run-scoring single off of Lambright's leg to even the score. Finally, Tate Matheny's bouncer to second was misplayed for an error that allowed Smith to score for a 2-1 Bears lead.
The Bears, who battered ACU pitching a week ago in a 12-0 win in Abilene, kept the pressure on the following frame, as Cheray and Spencer Johnson keyed another two-run rally with back-to-back singles. Cheray's base hit to left-center drove home Johnson, and Fultz's looping liner to left fell in for a run-scoring single to make it a 4-1 game.
MSU came through with two additional two-out tallies as part of a three-run fourth that stretched the Bears' lead to six runs. Dylan Becker got the ball rolling with a one-out single, before Johnson drew a walk and Cheray delivered his second RBI single in as many at-bats. A two-out wild pitch by Lambright allowed Johnson to score, and Drake drove home Cheray to extend the margin to 7-1.
After ACU (6-5) cut into the MSU lead on Connor Messman's two-run single with two out in the fourth, the Bears put the game out of reach by scoring five times over a three-inning span. Drake drove in his second run of the game with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, before MSU powered up to plate three runs with a pair of home runs in the seventh. With one on and nobody out, Matheny lofted his first long ball of the season over the wall in right-center on a 1-1 offering from Hunter Wakefield. Becker followed with a line drive that cleared the center fielder's head and roiled to the wall, allowing the junior to race all the way around for the Bears' second inside-the-park home run of the season, and their first back-to-back round-trippers since May 2012.
MSU added a single run in the eighth on Hawkins' RBI grounder, and Bears' relievers Sam Perez and Cole Hagen combined to hold the Wildcats scoreless in three innings of work. The joint effort extended the MSU bullpen's scoreless streak, which began Feb. 25 at Oral Roberts.
In addition to Cheray's effort, Becker, Johnson and Dezort finished with two-hit games for the Bears. Dezort, who scored a run and drove in another, matched a career high with his two hits in four at-bats, while Becker and Johnson each scored twice for MSU.
Spivey led ACU with a 3-for-5 day at the dish, while Draper and Chris Altimont both added a pair of safeties to the Wildcats' 12-hit attack. Lambright (0-1) suffered the defeat after allowing seven runs on eight hits over 3.2 innings for ACU.
Up next, the Bears will take on host UT Arlington in a 3 p.m. contest Saturday (March 8), before concluding their stay in Texas with an 11 a.m. game Sunday vs. Utah.