Bears Even Series With Skyhawks Behind Murphy's 13 Strikeouts
April 26, 2014
MARTIN, Tenn. - Clay Murphy's career-best 13-strikeout performance propelled Missouri State to a 7-5 victory over UT Martin Saturday afternoon at Skyhawk Field, evening the two clubs' non-conference series at one game apiece.
The Bears (19-20) built an early six-run lead, then cruised behind six strong innings from their fifth-year senior hurler, who allowed just one run on four hits. Murphy (3-3) struck out the side in each of the first two innings and recorded the first eight outs of the game via punchouts. The right-hander fanned at least two hitters in all but his final inning of work to surpass his previous personal best of 11 strikeouts.
Murphy's effort helped MSU eclipse its previous season high for strikeouts for the second straight game versus the Skyhawks. Jordan Knutson fanned a pair over his 2.2 innings of relief work, while Jake Powers recorded the final out of the game via strikeout--the Bears' 16th of the day--to wrap up his second save.
Eric Cheray and Tate Matheny led the Bears' 12-hit offensive attack with matching 2-for-4 efforts, teaming up to drive in four of MSU's first five runs of the game. Joey Hawkins and Tyler Harris each contributed a pair of hits, and Dylan Becker drove home two key runs to help the Bears establish their early margin.
After seeing its offense fail to cash in on several opportunities for big innings in Friday's series-opening 4-3 loss, the Bears reversed the trend early in game two to take a commanding lead. MSU benefitted from three walks in the opening inning from UTM starter Dalton Potts, the last of which to Spencer Johnson forced in the first run of the game. Potts escaped the jam without further damage thanks to a running catch by center fielder Fletcher Johnson on a ball hammered into the gap by Hawkins with the bases full.
The Skyhawks evened the score in the home half of the first on Nick Molina's two-out single to center--the first of three hits on the day for the Skyhawks' third baseman.
But the Bears broke through with two out in the second, as Cheray's hard single through the right side of the infield drove in Becker to put MSU on top for good. Matheny followed with his seventh long ball of the season--a blast that cleared the right-center field wall--to make it a 4-1 game.
MSU kept the pressure on UTM in the fourth with back-to-back doubles by Alex Jefferson and Cheray that extended the lead to four runs and chased Potts from the game. In the fifth, the Bears added two critical runs on Becker's two-out, two-run double to left-center after three consecutive singles set up the scoring chance.
UT Martin chipped away at the deficit over the final two innings, touching up Knutson for a run in the eighth on another Molina RBI single, before back-to-back homers from Taylor Douglas and Taylor Cox with two out in the ninth cut the MSU lead to two runs. But Powers got Upton to chase a third strike to put the finishing touches on the victory.
Potts (0-7) took the loss for UTM, which dropped to 6-34 on the season. The lefty allowed five runs on six hits over his 3 1/3 innings of work, before Alex Boshers stopped the bleeding with 5.2 innings of solid relief.
Molina and Cox each turned in three-hit games for the Skyhawks, while Johnson and Douglas recorded two hits apiece.
MSU and UT Martin will conclude their series Sunday with a Noon contest.