Braves Erase Big Deficit to Even Series With Bears
April 12, 2014
PEORIA, Ill. - For the second straight day Missouri State saw an early lead slip away against Bradley, as the homestanding Braves rallied from a 5-0 deficit to clip the Bears 6-5 in the first game of the two clubs' doubleheader Saturday evening at Dozer Park.
After watching a three-run advantage go by the wayside, only to rally for a 6-5 victory with a two-run ninth-inning rally in Friday's series opener, the Bears came up on the short end of a one-run decision in Saturday's opener. BU needed just three innings to erase MSU's five-run cushion this time before pushing the deciding run across the plate on Isaac Smith's sacrifice fly in the sixth following Spencer Gaa's leadoff double and a wild pitch.
Peter Resnick (1-0) made the come-from-behind victory possible for the Braves, limiting the Bears to one unearned run on six hits over a career-long 5.2 innings of relief work. After Missouri State pounded BU pitching for 10 hits over the first four innings, Resnick held MSU hitless through the eighth, before closer Matt Dennis wrapped up his fifth save by working out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to preserve the victory.
Missed opportunities proved costly for the Bears, who recorded 12 hits and drew eight walks, only to leave a total of 15 runners on base.
Just as they did in Friday's series-opening victory, the Bears jumped on the Braves with a first-inning scoring rally to seize control of the lead. Matt Dezort reached base after being hit by a two-strike pitch from BU starter David Koll, who then walked Eric Cheray before yielding a base hit to Tate Matheny to load the bases. Dezort scored the game's first tally on a double-play ball off the bat of Conor Smith, before Koll recorded the final out of the inning on a fielder's choice grounder by Matt Fultz.
Alex Jefferson kept the early momentum going in the second, belting his first career home run in his first at-bat in five weeks. The freshman outfielder, who had not seen game action since March 7 due to a wrist injury, launched a drive that bounced off the top of the left-field fence on a 1-2 pitch from Koll to stake MSU to a 2-0 lead.
The Bears appeared to break the game open in the third, after a pair of errors and two walks led to three unearned runs crossing the plate. Cheray's two-run single highlighted the inning and pushed the MSU advantage to 5-0, but once again the Bears left a pair of runners on base, giving them 10 through the first three frames.
Bradley would begin its comeback in the home half of the third, after MSU starter Jon Harris handed out a pair of walks to start the inning. Chris Godinez's double drove in Gaa, before Greg Partyka's one-out base hit to right plated a second run for the Braves.
Perhaps the biggest turning point in the game occurred in the top of the fourth after the Bears loaded the bases for the fourth consecutive inning, yet came up empty despite registering four hits in the frame. Singles by Conner Wilson, Spencer Johnson and Fultz set up the scoring threat, but BU cut down the lead runner at the plate on Hawkins' one-hopper to third. Next, the Braves caught a significant break when Jefferson's chopper to second glanced off the foot of Hawkins, keeping the runners at their previous stations and negating what would have been another MSU run. Resnick would then close the door on the Bears' threat by retiring Becker on a tap to the right side of the infield.
BU evened the score in the fifth, striking for three runs on three hits against Harris and sophomore reliever Bryan Young. Gaa's leadoff double started the rally before Smith's bouncer to the right side brought the freshman home to make it a 5-3 game. Next, Godinez singled and a pair of walks loaded the bases, and Carlile cashed in with a two-run double to draw BU even with the Braves.
The Braves needed just two pitches to set up their next scoring opportunity in the sixth, as Young beaned Austin Jarvis, then uncorked a wild pitch before leaving the game with an apparent injury. Gaa's sacrifice bunt moved the runner to third, and Smith brought him home with a fly ball to center to put the Braves on top for the first time in the game.
Resnick handcuffed the Bears from that point, striking out four over a two-inning stretch and allowing just three baserunners altogether--all via walks--over his final three innings. MSU finally put pressure on BU in the ninth with base hits from Hawkins and Aaron Meyer before a walk to Blake Graham loaded the bases with two outs. But with the Bears' top hitter at the plate in Cheray, Dennis--who surrendered the tying and go-ahead runs with two out in the ninth inning Friday--coaxed a game-ending ground ball to third to end the game and even the series at one game apiece.
Godinez and Carlile led BU's attack with two-hit games, while Smith finished with a pair of critical RBIs to lead the Braves.
Cheray paced the MSU offense with a 2-for-5, 2 RBI night, while Jefferson went 2-for-2 with a walk and a pair of runs scored for the Bears.
The Bears (14-17, 4-4 MVC) and Braves (18-12, 4-7 MVC) will conclude their series with the second game of the doubleheader this evening.