Bears Rally in Ninth to Nip Kansas, 6-5
April 23, 2014
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Missouri State rallied from a two-run deficit with three runs in the ninth inning to claim a 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Kansas Wednesday evening at Hoglund Ballpark. The Bears battled back from a 5-3 hole with three consecutive singles in the decisive frame, then benefitted from a critical two-out error to plate the game-winning run.
Down to their final two outs, the Bears (18-19) got a lift from a pair of freshmen to begin their comeback bid, as Aaron Meyer ignited the rally with a pinch single before Blake Graham doubled down the left-field line to put the tying run in scoring position. Dylan Becker's base hit made it a 5-4 game, and Tate Matheny's safety squeeze gave Graham time to cross the plate with the tying run.
Finally, Eric Cheray's chopper to the left side of the infield was mishandled by Colby Wright at third, allowing Becker to come all the way around from second with the deciding run. Given the one-run lead, Jon Harris closed out the see-saw battle with a scoreless home half of the ninth to earn his first career save and extend the Bears' win streak versus the Jayhawks to five games.
The Bears' 10th come-from-behind victory of the season was spurred by a late offensive surge that saw MSU score six times on nine hits over the final four innings. Sam Perez (3-0) earned the victory with three innings of relief, over which he allowed three runs on six hits while striking out three Jayhawks.
Kansas appeared poised to pull out the decision after erasing a 2-1 MSU lead with a three-run rally of its own in the sixth inning. The Jayhawks then answered an eighth-inning Bears' score with what a run on Michael Suiter's fifth hit of the night--a two-out double that scored Justin Protacio from second base moments after the Bears narrowly missed a chance for an inning-ending double play.
The late scoring bonanza followed a lackluster showing from both offenses to open the contest. KU left 10 runners on base over the first six innings, while MSU managed just two hits and three total baserunners until its two-run rally in the sixth erased a 1-0 deficit.
MSU starter Andy Cheray worked his way out of a series of early jams, stranding two Jayhawk baserunners in each of the first three frames to extend his scoreless streak to 13 innings. The sophomore found himself in first-inning situation after Portacio singled to lead off the game, and Suiter reached on an infield hit to put KU runners on the corners with just one out. But Cheray induced a pop up off the bat of Big 12 home run leader Connor McKay, then got Wright to look at a called third strike to end the threat.
The Jayhawks mounted another scoring chance the following inning, getting a one-walk to Dakota Smith and a single to center from Blair Beck to put two more runners on base. Once again Cheray wiggled his way out of trouble, coaxing a fly ball and a fielder's choice ground ball to keep the game scoreless. Finally, Cheray fanned the side in the third, despite another hit by Suiter and an two-out walk to Wright.
KU finally broke through in the fourth, cashing in on Smith's second walk of the night when Ka'iana Eldredge singled into right field to chase the runner home from second. After allowing his first run of the season, Cheray limited the damage by stranding yet another runner in scoring position, getting Aaron Hernandez on a fly to center.
In contrast to Cheray's start, KU's Jon Hander faced few obstacles in the early stages of the contest. The freshman right-hander walked Graham to open the first, then promptly retired five straight batters before Conner Wilson provided the Bears' first hit of the day with two out in the second. Hander responded by setting down the next eight Bears he faced before yielding a two-out double to Wilson in the fifth.
MSU kicked its offense in gear in the sixth, however, as six consecutive Bears reached base via a hit or walk as part of a two-run rally. Graham got the ball rolling by drawing a one-out walk, before Becker and Matheny delivered back-to-back singles. After Suiter cut down the lead runner at the plate on a throw from left, Eric Cheray drew a base on balls, and Fultz bounced a two-run single through the box against reliever Drew Morovick to put the Bears in front.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as the Jayhawks answered immediately with three runs on four hits in their half of the sixth. Cheray once again issued a leadoff walk to Smith, and Beck followed with a base hit off Perez to set the stage for KU. After Eldredge struck out, Protacio came through with the first of three consecutive hits, the biggest coming from Michael Tinsley, who lined Perez's first offering into deep center field to chase home the tying and go-ahead runs. Suiter added to the lead with his fourth hit of the night--a run-scoring single to center that made it a two-run game.
The Bears battled back in the eighth, drawing to 4-3 on Eric Cheray's double that chased home Matheny and put the potential tying run in scoring position with nobody out. But KU closer Stephen Villines came up big for the Jayhawks, striking out Fultz on three pitches before catching Cheray in a rundown between second and third on Trey Hair's comebacker to thwart the rally.
Villines (1-2) suffered the setback for KU, which fell to 23-20 on the season. Protacio added three hits and scored twice for KU, while Suiter's five-hit game marked the first for a Bears' opponent since Nebraska's Kale Kiser accomplished the feat in February 2011.
Matheny and Becker both contributed a pair of hits and scored twice, while Wilson recorded his first two-hit game as a Bear with a 2-for-4 night.
Missouri State continues its four-game road swing with a three-game non-conference series at UT Martin this weekend, beginning with a 6 p.m. game Friday (April 25) evening.