Bears Claim Series Finale With 7-2 Win Over Bradley
April 13, 2014
PEORIA, Ill. - After succumbing to a Bradley rally in the first game of their doubleheader Saturday, the Missouri State Bears turned the tables on the Braves in the nightcap by scoring seven unanswered runs to pull out a 7-2 victory in the rubber match of the three-game series at Dozer Park.
The Bears (15-17, 5-4 MVC) scored three times in the sixth inning to erase a two-run deficit, then extended the margin in each of their final three turns at bat to cruise to their second Missouri Valley Conference series win of the season. Jake Powers came up big for MSU with 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief to earn his first career save in support of Clay Murphy (2-2), who racked up the mound victory in his first Valley start in over two years.
MSU, which recorded its third-straight double-digit hit total in the series, got a 3-for-5 night from Eric Cheray, who scored twice and stretched his career-best hit streak to 10 games, as well as a key contributions from Tate Matheny (2-for-5) and Matt Fultz, who logged his second two-hit effort of the series.
After combining for 11 runs and 18 hits in the first game of Saturday's twin bill, both offenses struggled at the onset of the night cap. After going down in order in the first inning, the Bears mounted the first scoring threat of the game in the second, thanks to Cheray's leadoff single. BU came up with a key play on a Cameron Roegner pitch in the dirt, as catcher Drew Carlile gunned down the MSU baserunner attempting to advance to second. That would prove to be a critical development when Cory Kay walked and Fultz singled with two out. Roegner kept the game scoreless by inducing an inning-ending grounder to second off the bat of Joey Hawkins.
Bradley (18-13, 4-8 MVC) put a runner in scoring position thanks to a Bears throwing error in the home half of the second, but Murphy rolled back-to-back ground balls to keep the Braves off the scoreboard. The Bears fifth-year senior worked around a leadoff double in the third and appeared to be picking up steam with his first 1-2-3 inning in the fourth.
But the Braves kicked their offense into gear in the fifth, using three straight singles to set up a two-run rally. Carlile blasted a line drive back through the box to begin the inning, just ahead of a perfectly-placed bunt single by Evan Gruener. Spencer Gaa kept his hot streak at the plate going with a single to left to break the scoring seal, and Isaac Smith made it a 2-0 game with a sac fly to right. A hit batsman and a two-out, infield single kept the rally going, but Matt Dezort's running catch up against the left-field wall got Murphy and the Bears out of the jam.
MSU responded immediately in the sixth, using an infield single by Matheny to ignite a three-run rally. Cheray followed with his second hit of the day, before Spencer Johnson delivered a run-scoring single to left to cut the BU lead in half. After a sacrifice bunt from Kay moved both baserunners into scoring position, Fultz singled to bring the tying run to the dish, and Hawkins squeezed home Johnson with the go-ahead run.
A costly two-out throwing error by Bradley added to the Bears' lead in the seventh, before Dylan Becker's two-out RBI single made it a 5-2 game in the eighth. The Bears' good fortune continued in the ninth, as singles from Matheny and Cheray once again led to a big inning. BU contributed to the MSU cause by allowing runs to score on a wild pitch and a passed ball to put the game out of reach.
Powers faced little resistance after entering the fray in the sixth with the tying run in scoring position. The right-hander fanned Gaa and Smith to get out of that jam, then proceeded to retire the next five Braves in order before a two-out throwing error finally snapped the string. However, that would be all the home club would get off Powers, who promptly retired Gruener for the final out in the eighth, before setting down the side in order to finish off the victory.
Roegner (5-2) suffered the loss for BU after allowing three runs on seven hits over his 5.1 innings, while Gaa paced the Braves' offense with a 2-for-4 effort at the plate.
Up next, the Bears return to Hammons Field to begin a four-game homestand Tuesday (April 15) with a 6:35 p.m. game against in-state rival Missouri.