Johnson Blanks Bluejays to Help Bears Claim MVC Opener, 3-0
March 23, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - The Missouri State Bears rode a dominant mound performance from junior Pierce Johnson to claim a 3-0 victory over Creighton Friday night at Hammons Field in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both clubs. Johnson struck out a career-high 16 hitters in a five-hit, complete-game shutout of the defending league champs to hand the Bears (17-6, 1-0 MVC) their fifth-straight win.
Johnson's 16 strikeouts represents the most for a Missouri State pitcher in nearly 43 years and the third-highest single-game total in school history, trailing only 17-strikeout efforts by Gary Wilson (March 23, 1967) and Charles Burt (May 16, 1969). Additionally, Johnson becomes the first Bear hurler on record to post four-consecutive double-digit strikeout outings and extends his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 13 1/3 with his second-straight complete game.
The Bears, who were shut out in Johnson's last start on March 15, wasted little time in staking the right-hander to a lead. Brent Seifert led-off the second with a walk, moved into scoring position on a Brock Chaffin sacrifice and scored on Conor Smith's two-out double to right-center. After Kevin Medrano delivered the first of his two hits on the night to kick-start a third-inning rally, Seifert was involved in MSU's second scoring opportunity as well, driving home Medrano with a grounder to second to put the Bears on top, 2-0.
Missouri State added an insurance run in the seventh, capitalizing on a pair of Ty Blach walks and a Spiker Helms RBI single to push the margin to three runs.
Johnson wouldn't need the extra support after working out of his biggest jam of the game in the top half of the seventh. CU put a pair of runners on base via a walk and a one-out Brad McKewon base hit, but Johnson fanned No. 3 hitter Nick Judkins and got Anthony Bemboom to tap back to the mound to end the inning. Johnson then quickly dispatched the Bluejays in the ninth, striking out pinch hitter Gabriel Thibodeaux and Mike Gerber before coaxing a fly ball to center from Erik Mattingly to wrap up the Bears' seventh consecutive win on opening night in MVC play.
Just about the only mistake Johnson made on the night was a fourth-inning fielding miscue that cost the Bears their school-record errorless streak of 240 consecutive fielding chances over a seven-game stretch. Predictably, Johnson made the error a moot point by striking out the side.
Medrano's two hits led the Bears' offense, while McKewon accounted for three of the Bluejays' five hits on the night.
The Bears and Bluejays (11-8, 0-1 MVC) will square off again Saturday at 2 p.m., before wrapping up the series with a 1 p.m. tilt Sunday.