Late Offensive Surge Carries Bears to 8-7 Victory, Series Sweep of Sycamores
March 31, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Travis McComack's one-out double in the bottom of the 11th inning propelled the Missouri State Bears to an 8-7 victory that completed a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series sweep of Indiana State Sunday at Hammons Field. Joey Hawkins scored the game-winner for the Bears (18-6, 3-0 MVC) after reaching base for the sixth time to kick off the decisive rally that led to MSU's fifth-straight win and a perfect 3-0 start to the conference season.
Hawkins, who turned in a career-best 4-for-4 effort to lead Missouri State's season-high 19-hit attack, initiated three of the Bears' four scoring rallies and became the first MSU player to reach base safely six times in a single contest since McComack accomplished the feat on March 23, 2010 against Central Arkansas.
McComack posted a career day at the plate as well, matching his previous personal high for hits (from the same game against Central Arkansas) by going 4-for-6 with a walk. None was bigger than his 11th-inning line drive into the gap in right-center field off ISU reliever A.J. McElderry (0-1) following Hawkins's base hit into left-center and Eric Cheray's third bunt single of the game that set up the dramatic ending.
The Bears were able to pull out their fifth consecutive in unconventional fashion, needing a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth just to force extra innings after the Sycamores erased a 4-0 MSU advantage with a seven-run rally of their own in the top half of the inning. Koby Peebles drew a lead-off walk to start the MSU ninth before Conor Smith and Keenen Maddox delivered back-to-back doubles to slice the Bears' deficit to 7-6.
ISU's Tyler Browning came up with a key strikeout, getting pinch hitter Matt Dezort to chase a third strike for the first out of the inning, but another clutch hit by Hawkins put runners on the corners to keep the Bears' momentum alive. Moments later, a balk call against Browning brought in Maddox with the equalizing run.
After Cheray beat out another bunt single and Tate Matheny was dealt an intentional pass, the Bears appeared to be on the brink of pulling out a dramatic come-from-behind victory with the bases loaded and McComack standing in against McElderry. But the senior shortstop's fly ball to left would not be deep enough to get the job done, as Owen Conway's throw to the plate cut down Hawkins attempting to score the game-winning run after tagging up at third base for an inning-ending double play.
The heart-stopping ending followed a scoreless pitcher's duel for much of the afternoon between MSU's Cody Schumacher and ISU's Daniel Peterson. In his first start since March 5, Schumacher showed little rust in blanking the Sycamores on just two hits over eight innings. After a lead-off single by Landon Curry to start the game, Schumacher retired nine straight batters before issuing a walk to Cody Zimmerman to begin the fourth. The senior right-hander, who fanned seven and walked just one hitter on the afternoon, would allow a lead-off single to Conway in the fifth before retiring the next 11 batters he faced before handing the ball off to Tyler Burgess in the top of the ninth.
By that time, the Bears had limited ISU to just one unearned run on eight hits in the series, including a string of 37 consecutive innings without an earned run dating back to last season's series in Terre Haute. Missouri State also held a four-run lead, thanks to a two-run rallies in the seventh and eighth innings. A two-out wild pitch by Peterson in the seventh plated Hawkins with the Bears' first run and an RBI single by Peebles doubled the advantage. MSU tacked on what appeared to be two critical insurance runs in the eighth after a two-out error brought in Hawkins and Cheray.
But the Sycamore bats awoke with one out in the ninth after Burgess recorded the first out of the frame. Curry singled to left to kick off a string of four straight ISU hits and a stretch of seven consecutive Sycamore hitters reaching base. Run-scoring doubles by Zimmerman and Koby Kraemer brought the score to 4-2 before Conway's two-run single off Grant Gordon knotted the score at 4-4. Mike Fitzgerald then dealt a crippling blow to the Bears' hopes, lofting a towering three-run homer that just cleared the 315-foot sign in left to give the Sycamores their first lead in the series.
MSU got off the deck in a hurry, however, tying the game in the ninth, then turning to freshman left-hander Matt Hall to keep the ISU offense in check long enough to mount the game-clinching rally. Hall (3-0) held the Sycamores scoreless on three hits over two innings to earn his third straight win.
In addition to big days from McComack and Hawkins, the Bears got three-hit games from Cheray and Maddox, as well as two hits apiece from Matheny and Smith.
ISU (11-11, 3-3 MVC) was led by Fitzgerald's 2-for-5 effort, highlighted by just the second home run allowed by a Missouri State pitcher this season. Four other Sycamores recorded two-hit days, including Conway, Curry, Zimmerman and Kraemer.
Peterson turned in a season-long 6 2/3-inning stint, over which he fanned nine Bears while allowing just two runs on eight hits and a pair of walks.
Up next, the Bears embark on a four-game road swing this week, beginning with a 6:30 p.m. contest Tuesday (April 2) against Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla. MSU will also travel to Normal, Ill., next weekend for a three-game MVC series with Illinois State, before returning home April 9 to face in-state rival Missouri.