Bears Click on All Cylinders in 9-0 Rout of Missouri
April 15, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - In front of its largest home crowd in two seasons, Missouri State sent the masses home happy with a memorable all-around performance and a 9-0 victory over Missouri Tuesday evening at Hammons Field.
The Bears (16-17) pounded out nine of their 15 hits to score seven times in the third and fourth innings, then relied on the pitching of Andy Cheray and two relievers to log just the second shutout victory in their 48-game series with the Tigers (17-18).
Cheray (1-0) responded to a pair of controversial calls that went MU's way in the top of the third by retiring 14 consecutive Tigers to allow his offense to mount its most productive attack in more than a month. In his first start of the season, the left-hander allowed just four hits over his 7.0 innings, matching a career high with six strikeouts before handing the ball off to his bullpen.
Spencer Johnson powered the Bears attack, going 3-for-4 with a double, a triple and a pair of runs batted-in, while Matt Fultz went 3-for-5 and scored twice and Tate Matheny added three hits, scored two runs and drove in two more to help Missouri State even the series ledger with the Tigers at 24 wins apiece.
The victory was staged in front of a gathering of 2,485--the Bears' largest crowd for a regular-season game at Hammons Field since its April 25, 2012 game against Missouri that drew 2,540.
Leading 1-0 after Johnson's run-scoring triple opened the scoring in the second, MSU surged to a commanding advantage with a four-run third-inning rally after Cheray worked his way out of a jam that never should have been in the top half of the frame. The Bears sophomore fanned leadoff man Eric Anderson on a pitch in the dirt to start the inning, but the Tiger first baseman was able to reach first on a wild pitch, despite appearing to make contact with the ball on his way out of the batter's box.
The argument that ensued led to the ejection of Missouri State head coach Keith Guttin, and the situation grew even more dire when the next hitter, Josh Lester, laid down a bunt single. Fultz's throw to first was off the mark, but first baseman Conner Wilson fired to second and Eric Cheray appeared to tag the runner out before he reached the bag. But the first base umpire ruled otherwise, giving the visitors runners at second and third with nobody out.
That's when Cheray came up with the key sequence of the night for MSU, striking out No. 3 hitter Shane Segovia, then coaxing a pair of ground balls from Dylan Kelly and Dillon Everett to end the inning with the lead still intact.
The Bears rode the momentum swing with one of their biggest innings of the season to take command for good. After Blake Graham led things off with a single to center off Tigers starter Peter Fairbanks (3-3), and Dylan Becker reached on a fielder's choice grounder, Matheny drilled a triple into the gap in right-center to put the Bears on top, 2-0. The next four MSU hitters would follow suit, as Eric Cheray drew a walk, before Fultz's base hit to right started a string of three consecutive RBI singles. Wilson was next, driving in his first run of the season with a base hit through the right side of the infield, and Johnson completed the scoring in the inning with a solid single up the middle to plate Fultz for a 5-0 lead.
MSU wasn't done with its offensive outburst, as Matt Dezort's pinch single to start the fourth led to three more runs on four hits. The first four batters in the inning recorded hits, as Matheny delivered his second RBI of the game with a single to right after Becker lined a base hit through the right side. Next, Eric Cheray delivered the biggest blow of the rally, winning a 12-pitch battle with MU reliever Austin Tribby by driving a 3-2 pitch into right for a two-run double that extended his career-best hit streak to 11 games and stretched the MSU margin to 8-0. Johnson, who finished just a home run shy of becoming just the eighth player in MSU history to hit for the cycle, doubled to start the fifth before trotting home on Dezort's RBI grounder that capped the scoring.
Cheray cruised through the sixth inning, once again setting down the heart of the MU lineup in order. He retired the first two hitters in the seventh as well, before issuing a walk to Brett Peel and yielding a base hit to Jake Ring. Anderson then drew a base on balls to load the bags, but Cheray got Lester to bounce to first to kill the threat and finish his night. Zach Merciez allowed a two-out single in his one inning of work, and Tyler Burgess closed out the victory with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth.
The Bears continue their four-game homestand Friday at Hammons Field with a 1:05 p.m. contest to open a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series against Illinois State.