Bears Bury Billikens on Murphy's Two-Hitter, 8-0
April 1, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State closed out its longest homestand of the season in style Tuesday evening, as Clay Murphy held Saint Louis to two hits over eight innings while the Bears offense bashed a season-high three home runs to pull away for an 8-0 non-conference victory over the Billikens at Hammons Field.
Murphy (1-2) matched a career high with 11 strikeouts while limiting the visitors to a pair of harmless singles and two walks to earn his first victory since a road win over Bradley on April 7, 2012. The senior right-hander, who missed all of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, held the Billikens hitless until the fifth inning and retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced before turning the ball over to Tyler Burgess.
The Missouri State offense came through with its best showing in nearly a month, pounding SLU pitching for eight runs on 10 hits, including a pinch-hit grand slam by Matt Dezort that turned a two-run Bears lead into a 6-0 margin in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Eric Cheray led the MSU charge all night, finishing 3-for-3 with a key two-run single to open the scoring in the home half of the first. Cheray, who also drew a walk to reach base safely in all four plate appearances, received help from Dezort's 2-for-2 effort off the bench. The sophomore outfielder's first career homer on the first pitch he saw from Damian Rivera cleared the berm in left field, marking the first pinch-hit grand slam by a Bear since Daniel Torrente accomplished the feat against Illinois State at the 2009 MVC Championship.
The Bears (13-14), who reached the winner's circle for the fifth time in their last seven outings, set the tone early by jumping on SLU starter Robert Plohr for a pair of runs in the opening frame after the first five MSU hitters reached base safely against the freshman right-hander. Aaron Meyer got things started with a line drive into the gap in right-center for a lead-off double, before Dylan Becker's single put runners on the corners. Next, Tate Matheny drew a free base after being hit by a pitch, and Cheray put the Bears on the board with a base hit up the middle for a 2-0 MSU lead.
After issuing a lead-off walk to Alec Sole to start the game,, Murphy ran into few problems with the Billiken lineup. He struck out a pair in the first to avoid trouble and begin a stretch that would see him retire seven straight hitters before a one-out error in the third handed SLU its second baserunner of the game.
Jake Henson's one-out hit in the fifth snapped Murphy's no-hit bid, but the Wolf Lake, Ill., native responded with another string of success, setting down 10 Billikens in a row--including six via strikeouts. Pinch hitter Michael Cusenza registered the only other hit for SLU with a two-out single in the eighth, before Burgess finished off the Bills with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Murphy matched his previous career best for strikeouts, which came on May 17, 2011 vs. Oklahoma State.
Plohr (1-3) took the loss for Saint Louis (17-10), despite settling into a groove to allow just one hit and a pair of walks over his final three innings after the two-run MSU first.
Missouri State travels to Tulsa for a 6:30 p.m. game Wednesday (April 2) with Oral Roberts before enjoying its lone off weekend of the regular season. The Bears then return to action against Missouri on April 8 with a 6 p.m. game at Taylor Stadium in Columbia.