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Fifth-Inning Rally Lifts Salukis Past Bears, 8-3
 
Zach Merciez
 
Zach Merciez
 

April 28, 2012

Box Score

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Southern Illinois scored five times with two outs in the fifth inning en route to an 8-3 victory over the Missouri State Bears Saturday afternoon at Hammons Field. Austin Montgomery's three-run double snapped a 2-2 tie, and Jordan Sivertsen added a two-run homer to give the Salukis (24-19, 9-5 MVC) all the offense they would need to even the key Missouri Valley Conference series at one game apiece.

After MSU starter Pierce Johnson issued an intentional pass to Chris Serritella to load the bases, Montgomery--hitless in his first five at-bats in the series--lined the first pitch he saw just inside the bag at third and into the left-field corner to chase home all three baserunners. Sivertsen then drilled a two-run homer into the Bears' bullpen in left on the very next pitch from Johnson to hike the Salukis' advantage to 7-2.

Three SIU pitchers, led by starter Cameron Maldonado (6-1), held the Bears at bay from that point. Eric Cheray led off the bottom of the fifth with a double and came around to score on a Kevin Medrano ground out, but that would be MSU's last true scoring threat of the day. Maldonado limited the Bears to three runs on six hits while striking out four over six innings, and Tyler Dray and Matt Murphy combined for three shutout innings in relief to seal the Salukis' sixth win in their last seven games.

Montgomery would finish the day 2-for-5 with four RBIs to lead the SIU attack, while Jake Welch chipped in with three hits and scored a pair of runs to help the Salukis cut the Bears' lead in the MVC standings to one-half game.

After being shut out on six hits in Friday's series opener, the Salukis broke out the bats early Saturday, touching up Johnson for two runs on a pair of doubles to grab a 2-0 first-inning lead. Johnson worked two-strike counts on each of the first three hitters of the game, but could not retire any of them. Welch got the ball rolling with a double off the right-field wall, before Brock Chaffin misplayed Donny Duschinsky's bouncer to first that allowed Welch to come around with the first tally of the day. Serritella followed with a long drive to right-center that just missed clearing the fence for a two-run homer. He settled for a double, and Montgomery plated the second Saluki run of the frame with a ground out to second.

 

 

Johnson avoided further damage in the first by coaxing back-to-back pop ups from Sivertsen and Brock Harding to begin a stretch that would see the junior right-hander set down seven straight Saluki hitters.

The Bears (30-14, 9-4 MVC) got one of those runs back in the second, thanks to singles by Chaffin and Keenen Maddox, and a Dylan Becker RBI ground out. They would leave the tying run at third base, however, as Maldonado retired Trey Massenberg on a fly ball to right to end the inning. MSU got a two-out single and a stolen base by Medrano the following frame, but would once again fail to drive home the equalizing run when Brent Seifert swung and missed at a third strike for the final out of the inning.

Chaffin, who led the Bears' offense with three hits, would initiate another Missouri State scoring opportunity in the fourth with a lead-off double to right-center. After Maddox moved him to third with a long fly ball to center, Chaffin trotted home with the tying run on Luke Voit's soft liner that fell into shallow right field.

Johnson (2-5) suffered his second-straight loss for MSU after allowing a season-high seven runs on six hits over five innings. Freshman right-hander Zach Merciez provided four solid innings of relief, holding the Salukis to just one run on three hits while matching a career high with five strikeouts.

The Bears will try to right the ship Sunday when they wrap up the weekend series with a 1 p.m. contest against the Salukis.

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