Sycamores Surge Past Bears to Claim Series Opener, 10-7
May 9, 2014
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Indiana State used a pair of big innings and 3 1/3 shutout frames from its bullpen to rally for a 10-7 victory over Missouri State in the opening game the two clubs' Missouri Valley Conference series Friday evening at Bob Warn Field. Jacob Hayes' three-run homer with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning snapped a 7-7 tie, and Ryan Keaffaber retired all eight hitters he faced to lock down the win for ISU.
Despite holding leads of 4-0 and 7-6, the Bears could not find an answer for a Sycamore lineup that touched up three hurlers for a total of 12 hits in matching a season-best run total for an MSU opponent. Connor McClain, who finished the night 3-for-4, tripled in the third to spark a six-run rally, then doubled as part of ISU's decisive four-run sixth inning.
On the mound, Keaffaber fanned back-to-back hitters to squash a bases-loaded, one-out threat in the seventh, then promptly retired the side in order in each of the final two innings to earn his 10th save of the season. Nick Kolarik (5-1) picked up the win with two-thirds of a scoreless inning, including inducing a key pop up with the bases full in the top of the sixth.
Derek Hannahs complemented the efforts of McClain and Hayes by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, and Tyler Wampler added a pair of hits and drove in a run for ISU. The win for the Sycamores snapped a five-game losing streak to the Bears dating back to the 2012 season and kept them even with Wichita State for the No. 3 position in the MVC regular-season standings.
The disheartening setback for MSU followed a strong start that saw the Bears build a four-run lead. After jumping on top with a first-inning run in Wednesday's home victory over Kansas, the Bears struck early once again to seize the upper hand against the Sycamores. ISU starter David Stagg easily dispatched of the first two MSU hitters, but Tate Matheny's two-bagger just inside the third base line set the stage for the Bears, who grabbed a 1-0 lead when Patrick Drake followed with the first of his two run-scoring doubles.
MSU starting pitcher Cody Schumacher faced few problems over the first two frames, setting the Sycamores down in order in the first, before working around Wampler's two-out double in the second. The senior right-hander appeared to have the game under control after the Bears stretched their lead to 4-0 with a three-run third-inning rally. Matt Dezort singled to start the rally ahead of a one-out walk to Matheny and Drake's 12th double in 22 games that made it a two-run game. A Conor Smith bouncer to first brought in Matheny with the second run of the inning, and a wild pitch plated Drake to push the MSU advantage to four runs.
But Indiana State kicked its offense into high gear in the home half of the third, as McClain's leadoff triple on a 3-2 pitch ignited a season-best six-run rally for the Sycamores. Hannahs put ISU on the board with a run-scoring single to right, before a touch of wildness from Schumacher opened the door for a big inning. A pair of hit batsmen loaded the bags and a four-pitch walk to Mike Fitzgerald pushed home the second run, before Brian Romero's liner into right-center cleared the bases to put the Sycamores in front for the first time. Wampler upped the ISU lead to 6-4 with an RBI single past a drawn-in MSU infield, but Zach Merciez stopped the bleeding by retiring the next two hitters.
The Bears bounced back with another two-out rally in the top of the sixth, this time using a Spencer Johnson double to get their offense rolling again. Joey Hawkins bounced a run-scoring single through the left side of the infield, before a base hit from Matt Fultz and a walk to Dylan Becker jammed the bases. Next, Stagg hit Dezort with a pitch to force home the tying run, then issued another free pass to Eric Cheray to put MSU back in the lead.
ISU's call to its bullpen proved to be a fruitful one, as Kolarik coaxed an inning-ending--and momentum-shifting--infield pop-up off the bat of Matheny to strand three MSU runners. The home club went right to work in its next turn at bat, getting three straight hits to start the home half of the sixth. An interference call at third base kept the Sycamores from knotting the score on Hannah's second hit of the game, and Sam Perez retired Landon Curry on a fly ball to left for the second out.
However, Cody Zimmerman doubled to left to chase home the tying run, and Hayes belted an 0-1 pitch over the right-field wall for his fourth homer of the season and a three-run ISU cushion.
MSU threatened again in the seventh, when singles from Drake and Hawkins and a walk to Conner Wilson loaded the bases with just one out. But Keaffaber struck out Alex Jefferson on a 3-2 curve, then got Becker to look at a third strike to strand the sacks full of Bears for the second straight inning.
Drake paced the Bears' nine-hit attack with a career-best three hits in five trips to the plate, and Hawkins went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for MSU. Merciez (1-3) took the loss after allowing two runs on four hits over 3.0 innings of relief.
The Bears (21-26, 7-9 MVC) and Sycamores (31-13, 10-6 MVC) continue their series Saturday (May 10) with a 1 p.m. (Central) game, before concluding the weekend Sunday at Noon.