Tigers Withstand Bears' Comeback Bid to Claim 5-4 Decision
April 9, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - In a nip-and-tuck battle between in-state rivals, visiting Missouri scored three times in the top of the eighth inning to build a four-run lead, then withstood a pair of Missouri State rallies to pull out a 5-4 non-conference victory Tuesday evening before 2,105 spectators at Hammons Field. Keaton Steele led the Tigers' 13-hit attack with a 3-for-4 effort, while seven MU hurlers combined to keep the Bears at arms' length throughout the contest.
The harrowing victory for Missouri -- which handed the Tigers a 23-22 all-time edge in the series -- came at the expense of a Bears offense that struggled to come up with the clutch hit time after time. Trailing by a single tally, MSU would leave the potential tying run in scoring position in each of the final six innings to see its four-game home win streak come to an end with their third-straight loss in the series with MU.
After carrying a one-run lead throughout most of the evening, Missouri broke through against MSU relievers Matt Hall and Erik Shannahan with three runs in its key eighth-inning rally to extend its advantage to 5-1. Steele delivered his third hit of the game to start the inning, and Dylan Kelly coaxed a walk from Hall before Logan Pearson belted a one-out triple over the head of Tate Matheny in deep center field to chase home both base-runners. Next, Kendall Keeton blooped a run-scoring single over a drawn-in MSU infield to bring in Pearson with the Tigers' third run of the frame.
Pearson's run would prove to be the decisive score in the game, even after the Bears mounted a three-run rally of their own in the home half of the inning. Luke Voit was the first of four straight MSU hitters to reach base in the inning, driving a single to right-center off Breckin Williams with one man out. Williams and another reliever, Jake Walsh, issued back-to-back walks to load the bases before pinch hitter Spencer Johnson plated a run with a solid single through the left side of the Tigers' infield to make it a 5-2 game. Walsh gave the Bears a hand in scoring their final two runs of the inning by unleashing a pair of wild pitches to bring home both Koby Peebles and Keenen Maddox to narrow the MSU deficit to just one run again.
But Walsh coaxed ground balls from Travis McComack and Joey Hawkins to escape the eighth with the lead intact, then combined with John Miles to close out the win after the Bears put their first two runners on base in the ninth. Miles struck out Eric Cheray on a fouled two-strike bunt attempt moments after watching the count go to 3-0, then induced a game-ending 6-4-3 double-play off the bat of Voit to earn his first save of the season.
MU starter Jace James (3-1) earned the victory by a pre-arranged short-start designation after working the first three innings and giving up just one run on three hits while striking out a pair of Bears.
The loss went to MSU freshman Andy Cheray, who turned in a career-best 6 2/3 inning effort in which the left-hander permitted just two runs on eight hits and fanned five batters to establish a personal high.
Missouri (12-17) established an early 2-0 lead in the contest, striking for a run in the first after Case Munson doubled and scored on Keaton Steele's one-out single. The Tigers added a tally in the third when Dane Opel singled home Dillon Everett after Cheray nearly escaped a two-on, nobody-out situation by striking out Munson and getting a pickoff at third when Voit threw behind Shane Segovia for the second out.
Missouri State responded in its half of the third by taking advantage of McComack's lead-off double to left-center, a bunt single by Hawkins and Dylan Becker's fielder's choice grounder to pull back to within a single run.
That's where the Bears would stay, however, as they failed to score in the fourth after putting their first three batters on base to kick off their string of six straight innings of leaving the tying run in scoring position.
McComack went 2-for-4 with a run scored to reach base safely in his 16th consecutive contest, and Maddox added a pair of hits and a walk in four trips to the plate to pace the Bears' offense.
The Bears (19-9) return to Missouri Valley Conference action Friday (April 12), when they open a three-game weekend series with Southern Illinois in Carbondale at 3 p.m.