Dominant Pitching Leads Evansville Past Missouri State in Series Opener
May 15, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Evansville's Kyle Freeland held Missouri State to two hits over 7.0 shutout innings, as the Purple Aces made a second-inning tally stand for a 1-0 victory Thursday evening at Hammons Field to clinch at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference's regular-season title.
Freeland, who improved to 10-1 on the season, struck out 11 Bears in notching his second consecutive scoreless out of 7.0 innings. The junior left-hander fanned seven Bears over the first three innings and allowed just a Conor Smith double in the second and a Patrick Drake single in the fourth to go along with a pair of walks before handing the ball off to his bullpen in the eighth.
Brent Jurceka worked a scoreless inning, and Sam Johns closed out the win with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth to lock up his 11th save of the season and a share of the Aces' first Valley title since 2006.
Evansville (34-17, 15-4 MVC) took advantage of a leadoff double from Kyle Pollock in the second to push the game's lone run across the plate. Boomer Synek lined a single into shallow left-center to put runners on the corners, before Eric McKibban's double-play ball to short allowed Pollock to score the deciding run.
Missouri State (21-29, 7-12 MVC) dropped its fourth-straight contest, despite a strong starting performance from senior pitcher Cody Schumacher. The right-hander bounced back from an uncharacteristically rough start at Indiana State last week with 7.0 innings of four-hit ball. Schumacher (5-2) struck out six and issued just one walk in just the fourth setback of his three-year Missouri State career.
After UE's scoring rally in the second, the Bears mustered several scoring chances, only to come up empty against Purple Aces pitching each time. In the home half of the second, MSU took advantage of a throwing error on a strikeout pitch in the dirt and its only extra-base hit of the night by Smith to put a pair of runners in scoring position with nobody out. But Freeland blew third strikes by Spencer Johnson and Dylan Becker and retired Eric Cheray on a safety squeeze attempt to escape the inning with the lead intact.
The Bears put a man in scoring position in both the fourth and fifth frames as well, but the Aces' ace rolled inning-ending ground balls in each case to preserve the one-run advantage. Then, in the eighth, MSU rallied with two out after Joey Hawkins' infield hit and another UE throwing error on Tate Matheny's bouncer to third gave the Bears new life. But once again, the Aces got the key out they needed when Jurceka induced a rally-killing roller to short off the bat of Drake to squash another MSU threat.
Johns easily dispatched the first two hitters of the ninth via strikeouts before Cheray's infield single put the tying run on base once again. But Becker's liner to short was snared by Shain Showers to close the door on MSU's comeback attempt.
Cheray led the Bears' offense with a hit and two walks in his four trips to the plate, and senior Jake Powers kept the Bears in the game with a pair of shutout innings in relief of Schumacher.
Up next, the Bears and Purple Aces continue their three-game series Friday (May 16) with a 1:05 p.m. contest.