Maddox's Eighth-Inning Homer Propels Bears to Series Win at Evansville
April 28, 2013
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Keenen Maddox's two-out home run in the top of the eighth inning gave Missouri State just enough offense to pull out a 2-1 victory over Evansville Sunday afternoon, as Andy Cheray and Erik Shannahan teamed up to hold the Purple Aces to five hits in the Missouri Valley Conference series-clinching win for the Bears (27-12, 11-4 MVC).
With just 10 home runs as a team entering play Sunday and UE left-hander Josh Biggs having retired the previous nine MSU hitters in succession, Maddox's clout provided an improbable source for the winning margin. The Bears' 2012 home run leader, Maddox picked an opportune time to deliver his first long ball of the 2013 campaign, lining the first pitch he saw from Biggs over the wall in left field to snap a 1-1 tie.
The MSU victory was made possible by the work of starting pitcher Andy Cheray, who limited UE to just four hits over his 6 1/3 innings of work to give the Bears' struggling offense time to produce the go-ahead run. Cheray fanned six, including five over a stretch in which he retired six consecutive batters and nine out of 10 over a four-inning span.
The dramatic ending for the Bears stood in stark contrast to the conclusion of Saturday's 2-1 setback in which Evansville (16-29, 7-8 MVC) pulled out the win with a two-out, walk-off single in the ninth inning. After rallying from a 1-0 deficit with their lone run of the contest on Hockemeyer's two-out RBI-single in the bottom of the sixth, Sunday's rubber match of the series had all the markings of another big finish for the home team on Senior Day. With a senior pitcher (Biggs) in control on the mound, and another senior (Hockemeyer) making big plays in the field and at the plate, the Aces appeared to have the late-inning momentum once again.
But it was the Bears' turn to come up with a game-changing turn of events in the bottom of the seventh, as Cheray got a much-needed lift from his bullpen with the potential go-ahead run perched at second with one out. Shannahan entered the game and promptly got Andy Lasher to bounce out to short before striking out Nick Hathcoat to end the threat. The senior right-hander gave up a two-out hit to Chris Pearson in the eighth, but squashed that rally as well, coaxing a fly ball off the bat of No. 3 hitter Jason Hockemeyer to finish the inning.
Shannahan (2-0) closed the door on the Aces with a brisk one-two-three ninth, fanning Kyle Pollock and Shain Showers in succession to lock down the win. The right-hander earned the victory with his 2 2/3-inning stint, over which he struck out a total of four batters while allowing just one hit.
The Bears initially took control of the game in the third, as Patrick Drake led off the frame with a double to right, then came around for the game's first run on a Tate Matheny base hit to left. MSU appeared to be in position to extend its advantage with Matheny on third and just one out, but the freshman was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Maddox's fly ball in shallow right for an inning-ending double play.
MSU would put runners in scoring position in each of the next two innings as well, but Biggs worked out of trouble both times. He induced an a rally-killing grounder to third from Maddox to end the fifth and begin a stretch of dominance over the ensuing two frames.
Cheray was in command throughout his outing, sustaining the lone blemish on his day in the sixth when a bad-hop single by Kevin Kaczmarski led to UE's only tally.
In addition to Maddox's heroics, Matheny and Spencer Johnson each chipped in with a pair of hits to power MSU's offense.
Biggs (0-2) took the loss after allowing both Bear runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings.
Missouri State will wrap up a five-game road swing Tuesday (April 30) evening at No. 15 Arkansas, with first pitch slated for 6:35 p.m. at Baum Stadium.