Bears Bounce Bradley to Clinch Series, Gain Share of MVC Lead
April 20, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Led by Keenen Maddox's four-hit day, Missouri State pounded out 15 hits to overpower Bradley in a Missouri Valley Conference series-clinching 12-2 win Saturday at Hammons Field. Maddox drove in three runs and established a new career high for hits in a game, while freshman pitcher Jon Harris kept his spotless record intact by holding the Braves to three hits over seven solid innings.
With the victory, the Bears (23-11, 8-3 MVC) -- who upended BU by a 5-2 score in Friday's series opener -- moved into a tie for first place in the Valley standings with Wichita State, which dropped a 6-3 decision to Evansville Saturday afternoon.
In addition to Maddox's heroics at the plate, Tate Matheny delivered three hits and scored four times, becoming the first MSU player to do so since Kyle Hardy accomplished the feat on Feb. 25, 2011. Dylan Becker also turned in a career-best effort for MSU, coming off the bench in the sixth inning to record hits in each of his three at-bats, including a game-ending grand slam in the bottom of the eighth that sealed the Bears' run-rule victory and another MVC series win.
Harris (8-0), who struck out two and walked two, was in command throughout the afternoon, allowing just two unearned BU runs in the sixth after the Bears had established a 5-0 lead. With the victory, Harris improved to 4-0 in MVC play and moved to within one win of cracking Missouri State's all-time top 10 chart for pitching victories in a single season.
MSU set the tone for the afternoon from the onset Saturday, jumping all over Bradley starter Brent Stong in the bottom of the first with a lead-off single by Matheny and an RBI-double by Maddox to grab a 1-0 lead. MSU missed out on a golden opportunity to extend its advantage even further when Maddox was thrown out at third attempting to stretch the double into a triple for the first out of the inning. Stong would settle into a groove from that point, setting down the next five Bears he faced to keep it a one-run game through two innings.
But Missouri State would open up a four-run cushion in the third, as Joey Hawkins's base hit to center kicked off a string of five straight Bears reaching base to start the inning. Eric Cheray, who finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a pair of runs scored, followed Hawkins with a line drive into the right-field corner to bring in MSU's second run of the game. Next, Matheny kept the hit parade going with his second single of the game, before Maddox drove in his second run of the day with a base hit to shallow right for a 3-0 Bears lead. A walk to Luke Voit loaded the bases, and Spencer Johnson's double-play grounder to third produced MSU's fourth run.
Dealt a comfortable lead, Harris made quick work of the Braves over the first half of the contest, facing the minimum number of BU hitters through 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander helped his own cause in the early innings by picking off a Bradley baserunner in each of the first two frames, as well as catching another Braves runner in between second and third on a comebacker in the second. The Florissant, Mo., product would retire nine straight batters after his second-inning pickoff of Paul Solka - the third pickoff in the series by a Bears pitcher - before giving up a two-out single to Tyler Leffler in the fifth.
BU (12-21, 1-10 MVC) would get on the board in the sixth after Travis McComack's miscue on a potential double-play ball set up a Braves rally. Harris uncorked just his second wild pitch of the season to allow the first BU run to cross the plate, and Max Murphy brought in a second unearned tally with a bouncer to short that cut the Bears' lead to 5-2.
Thanks to Becker's lead-off double and another run-scoring hit by Cheray, the Bears upped their advantage to four runs in the home half of the sixth, then put the game on ice with a six-run eighth. Maddox and Voit plated runs with RBI-singles in the final frame before Becker lofted a Patrick Flanagan offering just over the wall in left field for his first home run of the season and the first grand slam by a Bear in 2013.
Tauchman was the lone Brave to collect two hits on the day, finishing 2-for-3 with a double.
Stong (4-2) shouldered the loss for BU after allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits over four innings.
The Bears and Braves will conclude their series with a 1 p.m. game Sunday at Hammons Field.