Utah Sends Bears to Second-Straight Loss at UTA Hilton Invitational
March 9, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas - Utah's Bret Helton held Missouri State's potent offense in check for six innings, limiting the Bears to two runs on four hits in a 7-3 Utes' victory at the UTA Hilton Invitational. The Bears were held to just six hits on the day in dropping their second consecutive game at Clay Gould Ballpark.
Helton struck out eight Bears and retired 13 straight MSU batters at one point before Josh Chapman and Nick Green put the finishing touches on the win with three strong innings of relief work. Utah rode the heart of its batting order in an 11-hit attack, as cleanup man Biss Larsen went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs, while No. 5 and No. 6 hitters Wyler Smith and Max Schuman combined to drive home two more tallies with two-hit performances.
Utah jumped on the board with two runs in the top of the first, continuing a recent trend of early offense for Missouri State opponents, who have outscored the Bears in the first inning by a combined 8-1 margin over the last four games. After quickly getting ahead of lead-off man Kody Davis 0-2, MSU starter Jon Harris threw four consecutive balls to give the Utes a baserunner. Harris briefly recovered to retire Cory Hunt on a grounder to third and TJ Bennett on a fly ball to center, but Larsen and Smith came through with back-to-back two-out singles to give Utah a 2-0 lead.
The Bears answered with a run in the home half of the first, as Tate Matheny and Eric Cheray drew bases on balls before Spencer Johnson's single sliced the Ute lead in half. But Helton squashed the rally with strikeouts of Conor Smith and Trey Massenberg to leave the bases loaded and maintain the 2-1 advantage.
Over the next three innings Helton would be nearly unhittable, as the Utah sophomore recorded six strikeouts as part of his string of 13 consecutive batters retired. The Utah offense gave Helton a three-run cushion two more runs in the fourth, thanks to a Max Schuman sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Cody Scaggari.
In the fifth, Matheny snapped Helton's string with a two-out single to left--marking the first ball to leave the infield since Matt Fultz's one-out hit in the first--and Dylan Becker blasted a run-scoring double to center to draw the Bears within 4-2.
But Missouri State's offense continued to spin its wheels with runners in scoring position, as Cheray flew out to leave Becker at second, before Chapman worked around a two-out walk to strand another runner at second in the seventh.
Fultz momentarily brought the Bears to within 4-3 with his second home run as a Bear with two out in the bottom of the eighth, but Utah quickly opened up a 7-3 margin with a three-run rally in the ninth. After a lead-off walk to Josh Rose, Davis and Hunt delivered back-to-back run-scoring doubles, and Larsen completed the scoring with an RBI single.
Green took over for Chapman after a walk to start the ninth and promptly closed out the decision by retiring the next three Missouri State hitters.
Fultz led the Bears with a 2-for-4 day, while Matheny scored twice on a single and two walks in five plate appearances.
Harris (1-1) was tagged with the loss for MSU after giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits and a pair of walks. Bryan Young provided a lift out of the bullpen with four scoreless frames, over which the freshman scattered three hits and three walks while fanning three Utes.
The Bears' extended road stretch will reach 20 games (dating back to last May) Tuesday (March 11) when they travel to Cape Girardeau for a 3 p.m. game against SEMO at Capaha Park.