Shockers Clip Bears to Salvage Final Game of Series
April 22, 2012
WICHITA, Kan. - Wichita State built an early three-run lead, then relied on a strong pitching effort to claim a 3-2 decision from the Missouri State Bears Sunday afternoon at Eck Stadium. Starter Kris Gardner tossed a career-best seven scoreless innings, and Cale Elam closed out the win with a perfect ninth inning to help the Shockers avoid being swept at home for the first time ever in Missouri Valley Conference play.
Gardner (4-1) struck out four Bears and allowed just five hits to earn the victory against MSU starter Pierce Johnson (2-4), who returned to the mound for the first time in three weeks. Johnson showed no lingering effects from a forearm strain that had sidelined him since March 30, fanning nine hitters while permitting all three WSU runs on seven hits over six innings.
Wichita State's offense awoke from its slumber to nearly double its combined hit total from the first two games of the series. Mikel Mucha registered a career-high three hits, and Erik Harbutz went 2-for-4 to lead the WSU attack, with each playing prominent roles in the Shocker's two-run first inning. Harbutz kick-started the Wichita State rally with a solid single to center against Johnson, and Mucha followed with a base hit up the middle to put runners on the corners. Johnson got Don Lambert on a line out to left, but Harbutz had more than enough time to trot home with the game's first run. Johnny Coy kept the hit parade going with a double to right-center that chased home Mucha for a 2-0 WSU advantage.
WSU (24-19, 6-6 MVC) added to its lead in the fourth thanks to a Dayne Parker single and a two-out Tyler Baker double to left-center that pushed the home team's lead to 3-0.
That would be enough for Gardner, who worked around lead-off baserunners in three of his last four innings to preserve WSU's lead. The left-hander retired six straight hitters after a Keenen Maddox single in the fifth, but ran into trouble in the seventh when Brock Chaffin singled and Maddox doubled to give the Bears a pair of runners in scoring position with just one out. But Gardner got out of the jam by getting Trey Massenberg and Patrick Drake on strikes to keep the Bears off the scoreboard.
Reliever Foster Vielock would not be as fortunate in the eighth after the Bears loaded the bases with nobody out courtesy of base hits by Dylan Becker and Kevin Medrano and a Spiker Helms walk. Brent Seifert put MSU on the scoreboard with a sacrifice fly to right, and Luke Voit singled home Helms with two out to cut the deficit to one run.
But Vielock coaxed an inning-ending fly ball off the bat of Maddox to strand the tying and go-ahead runs, and Elam turned out the lights in the ninth, striking out the side to lock down the victory for Wichita State.
Voit and Maddox powered the Bears' eight-hit effort with matching 2-for-4 days at the plate, and Jake Powers worked a pair of scoreless innings in relief of Johnson to keep MSU within striking distance.
Up next, the Bears (29-12, 8-3 MVC) return to Hammons Field to begin a four-game homestand Wednesday evening against Missouri at 6:30 p.m.