Bears' Comeback Falls Short in 6-5 Setback to UT Arlington
March 8, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas - Despite battling back from an early three-run deficit, Missouri State's comeback bid against UT Arlington came up just a few feet short, as the home-standing Mavericks escaped several late jams to wrap up a 6-5 victory Saturday at Clay Gould Ballpark.
After the Mavericks established a two-run lead in the opening frame, the Bears clawed their way back to within a single run on four different occasions. But MSU was never able to pull even, despite putting the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in four of the last five innings.
One of UTA's three relievers was able to wiggle out of each inning with the lead intact. The Mavericks saved their biggest escape act for the ninth after the Bears drew to within a run on Dylan Becker's RBI single to right and put runners on second and third with nobody out. UTA's Colin Tornberg retired Eric Cheray on a pop-up to first, then got Spencer Johnson to swing and miss at three pitches for the second out. Finally, third baseman Travis Sibley came up with the play of the day, diving in the hole between third and shortstop to rob Tyler Harris of a potential game-changing hit and thwart the Bears' hopes of a comeback for good.
Thornberg earned his first save following solid work from bullpen mates Chase Weaver and TJ Whidby to wrap up the win for starter Zach Thompson (1-2). Weaver gave up a single run over 2.2 innings and worked out of a two-on, one-out situation in the sixth to preserve a 4-3 lead at the time. Whidby followed by holding the Bears at bay in the 8th, stranding two runners in scoring position.
Peter Cuomo, the Mavs' No. 9 hitter, led the UTA attack with a 2-for-4 night and three runs batted-in, while Levi Scott added a pair of hits and scored twice and Matt Shortall went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
UTA wasted no time in gaining control of the contest, as the Mavericks strung together three straight singles after MSU starter Matt Hall plunked lead-off man Derek Miller and No. 2 hitter Brady Cox sacrificed the runner into scoring position. Next, Shortall opened the scoring by bouncing Hall's 2-2 offering up the middle to bring home Miller, and Justin Copeland and Greg McCall followed with base hits to plate a second run.
After squandering a pair of scoring chances in the first two innings, the Bears got to Thompson in the third when Patrick Drake and Trey Massenberg singled, and Joey Hawkins squeezed home a run to make it a 2-1 game.
Perhaps the key and most controversial moment in the contest occurred in the bottom of the fourth after Hall quickly dispatched the first two UTA batters of the inning. Ryan Bottger's single started a string of three straight hits for the Mavericks that ultimately gave the home club a 4-1 UTA advantage. Cuomo delivered the critical blow with a looper near the right-field foul line that Drake could not handle and first base umpire Darin Heare ruled fair for a two-run double and a huge momentum swing for the Mavs.
MSU responded in kind in the fifth, as Massenberg single, stole second with two out and scored on Tate Matheny's line drive into right. Becker pulled the Bears back to within a run, driving a double off the wall in left to chase home Matheny from first.
Thompson preserved the narrow margin for UTA, coaxing a bouncer to the right side off the bat of Cheray to end the inning.
The home club would reclaim a two-run edge in the sixth after singles by Scott and Tate, plus a walk to Bottger loaded the bases with nobody out. Bears reliever Clay Murphy induced a 4-6-3 double-play ball, but Scott was able to cross the plate to give the Mavs a 5-3 lead.
The Bears had several chances to pull even late in the game, and once again drew to within a run in the eighth when Aaron Meyer's pinch double to left plated Tyler Harris. Whidby avoided further damage by retiring Matt Dezort on a fly ball to left, and UTA once again stretched its lead to two runs in the home half of the inning when Sibley drew a bases-loaded walk from Murphy.
Hawkins and Matheny got the Bears' ninth started by drawing back-to-back walks before Becker's line drive through the right side of the infield made it a 6-5 affair. An error on the return throw allowed both baserunners to move into scoring position, but Tornberg came up big when it counted by setting down the next three MSU hitters in order to complete the victory.
Hall (1-2) was saddled with the loss after allowing four runs on six hits and two walks in 4.1 innings of work. Murphy provided 3.2 innings of relief work, giving up single tallies in the sixth and eighth frames after Scott led off with singles in each inning.
Three different Bears posted multi-hit days at the plate, led by Becker's 2-for-3 effort that included two runs batted-in and a pair of walks. Matheny went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Massenberg logged his first hits of the season with hits in both of his plate appearances.
Next, the Bears (8-4) conclude their stay at the UTA Hilton Invitational with an 11 a.m. game Sunday vs. Utah, which defeated Abilene Christian Saturday to improve to 2-0 on the weekend.