Bears Claim Series Opener From Southern Illinois, 8-3
March 28, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State took advantage of some timely hitting and a series of Southern Illinois defensive miscues to post an 8-3 victory over the Salukis Friday evening in the opening game of the two clubs' Missouri Valley Conference series at Hammons Field. Cody Schumacher earned his fifth mound victory of the season with 6.0 strong innings, while Dylan Becker and Joey Hawkins registered two-hit nights to lead the Bears' 11-hit attack.
The Bears (11-13, 2-2 MVC) cashed in on five Saluki errors to score four unearned runs, including three during a fifth-inning rally that snapped a 2-2 deadlock and turned the tide for good. The key moment in the inning--and perhaps the game--hinged on Spencer Johnson's deep fly to the warning track in right field with Tate Matheny on first base and two out. SIU's Donny Duschinsky got to the ball but could not squeeze it, allowing the runner to come all the way around with the go-ahead run, as well as two more MSU tallies when Eric Cheray and Conor Smith followed with back-to-back base hits to hand the Bears a 5-2 lead.
After the Salukis cut the lead to two runs on Jake Welch's sacrifice fly in the sixth, Bears reliever Zach Merciez turned in some solid work over a two-inning stint to keep the lead intact. The third Bears error of the evening, followed by a hit batsman set up a potential scoring opportunity for the visitors in the seventh after the junior right-hander took over for Schumacher. Merciez promptly struck out Duschinsky, then retired Jake Hand and Parker Osborne on ground balls to strand both runners in scoring position.
Merciez capped his effort with a 1-2-3 eighth inning before handing the ball off the Adam Anawalt, who closed out the victory by retiring the side in order in the ninth after the Bears tacked on three big insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth.
MSU grabbed control of the contest early, as the first two SIU errors, coupled with bunt singles from Matt Dezort and Becker, produced a first-inning run for the Bears. Cheray started another rally the following inning by coaxing a lead-off walk from SIU starter Sam Coonrod, and Patrick Drake's one-out double drove home the Bears' second tally of the night.
They would threaten again in the third when a double by Becker to start the inning, a walk to Matheny and an error on Matt Fultz's fielder's choice grounder loaded the bases with nobody out. But Coonrod would dig deep to hold the Bears in check, striking out the side to leave the bags full and begin a stretch that would see the junior right-hander fan seven consecutive MSU hitters before Matheny's one-out single started the Bears' decisive rally in the fifth.
SIU pulled even in the top of the fourth after the first three hitters reached base against Schumacher. Osborne's sac fly to right put the visitors on the board, and Ryan Rosthenhausler's one-out hit plated Duschinsky with the equalizing run.
Three straight Missouri State hits to start the eighth, including an RBI single from Trey Hair, eventually led to three more runs, giving the Bears bullpen some breathing room. Matheny drew a bases-loaded walk, and Fultz's ground ball to second produced the final two MSU runs of the evening.
Coonrod (0-3) ended his night with a career-high 11 strikeouts in 5.0 innings, but suffered the tough-luck setback after allowing just one earned run out of the five MSU runs scored against him. SIU relievers Chad Whitmer and Lee Weld would combine to fan four more Bears, giving the Salukis 15 strikeouts on the night--a Missouri State season high.
Rosthenhausler paced the Salukis six-hit night by going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Hand also added two hits and drew a walk in four trips to the plate.
Schumacher picked up his 14th career victory after allowing three runs on six hits while issuing three walks and striking out a pair over his six frames. Merciez tossed two hitless innings, giving up just two hits and striking out a pair.
Up next, the Bears and Salukis square off in game two of the series Saturday at 2:05 p.m., before wrapping up the weekend with a 1:05 p.m. contest Sunday.