Bears Even Series With 8-1 Win Over Evansville
May 16, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State halted a four-game losing streak and evened its three-game Missouri Valley Conference series against Evansville with an 8-1 victory over the Purple Aces Friday afternoon at Hammons Field. The Bears scored in five consecutive innings for the first time this season to build an eight-run lead, which Matt Hall and a pair of MSU relievers preserved by blanking UE on just four hits over the first eight innings.
After being held to four hits in Friday's series opener, the Bears turned the tables on the Aces in game two, roughing up UE pitching for 14 hits. Tate Matheny powered the MSU attack with a 3-for-5 day at the plate that included his 10th home run of the season and two runs batted-in. Eric Cheray was one of four additional Bears to turn in multi-hit performances, adding two hits and three walks in five plate appearances.
Hall (2-4) held the Evansville offense in check throughout his 6.0 innings, allowing just three singles and a walk while fanning four to earn his first win since a road win over New Mexico in his second start of the season on February 22. Only one UE baserunner reached scoring position against the Bears left-hander, who handed the ball off to Clay Murphy after retiring 11 of the last 12 Purple Aces he faced.
Murphy followed with two shutout frames in what figured to be his final mound appearance at Hammons Field. The fifth-year senior worked a 1-2-3 seventh and retired the first hitter he faced in the eighth before a Devin Williams double and a walk to Jarod Perry gave UE its best scoring chance of the game. But Murphy killed the rally by inducing a 4-6-3 double-play grounder to keep the 8-0 lead intact.
The Bears (22-29, 8-12 MVC) kicked off their offensive bonanza with the first of three two-out scoring rallies in the game to grab a 1-0 lead in the third. MSU capitalized on three consecutive hits against Evansville starter Cole Isom (6-5), as Joey Hawkins got things started with a chopper through the right side of the infield, before back-to-back singles by Tate Matheny and Patrick Drake produced the game's first run.
Cheray started the Missouri State fourth with the first of his two doubles on the day, driving an 0-1 pitch from Isom into the right-center field gap. With one out, Matt Fultz's liner up the middle netted another tally to put the home club on top, 2-0.
MSU broke the game wide open with a three-run fifth-inning rally, sparked by Matheny's leadoff blast that cleared the wall in left. A Conor Smith single and another two-base hit by Cheray chased Isom from the game, before a walk to Spencer Johnson, an error and a Dylan Becker sacrifice fly made it a 5-0 contest.
Not content with their early advantage, the Bears kept the pressure on Evansville with two-out scoring rallies in both the sixth and seventh frames to extend their lead further. Drake's line drive down the left-field line was good for his 13th double in just 26 games this season and started a stretch that would see four consecutive MSU hitters reach safely after Conor Gilligan had retired the first two batters in the sixth. Back-to-back walks to Trey Massenberg and Cheray loaded the bases, and Johnson followed with a two-run single that pushed the lead to seven runs.
Hawkins delivered the Bears' fifth extra-base hit of the day with a two-out double in the seventh, scoring on Matheny's RBI single through the left side of the Aces' infield.
Evansville (34-18, 15-5 MVC), which clinched a share of the MVC's regular-season title with Friday's 1-0 victory, mounted a late charge to break up the Bears' shutout bid, as three straight two-out hits against Zach Merciez in the ninth snapped a 15-inning scoreless spell for the Aces.
In addition to big days from Matheny and Cheray, the Bears received big performances from Hawkins, Drake and Johnson in the win. Hawkins scored a pair of runs and extended his career-best hit streak to six games, while Drake went 2-for-5 with a run scored in addition to his run-scoring single in the third. Finally, Johnson reached base safely three times, going 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs for the day.
Missouri State and Evansville conclude the series and the regular season with a 1:05 p.m. contest Saturday (May 17). The Bears will honor their six seniors, as well as retiring assistant coach Brent Thomas, with an on-field ceremony that is scheduled to begin at approximately 12:40 p.m. Tomorrow's game has also been designated as Military Appreciation Day, with all fans who present either an active or retired U.S. military ID eligible to receive a complimentary ticket to the contest with the purchase of one regular price reserved seat.