Bears Rally to Claim Series From Evansville With 9-8 Victory
May 17, 2014
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State rallied from a three-run deficit with a four-run rally in the eighth inning to pull out a 9-8 victory over Evansville in the two clubs' regular-season finale Saturday afternoon. Spencer Johnson's two-run single in the decisive rally tied the game, before Matt Fultz put the Bears on top for good with a sacrifice fly to right, capping a late offensive surge that saw the Bears score six times over their final two turns at bat to send their six seniors and assistant coach Brent Thomas out on a high note in their final games at Hammons Field.
The Bears (23-29, 9-12 MVC), who took their second straight win from the Missouri Valley Conference champs, came up with a big offensive performance for the second day in a row, pounding out 15 hits against seven different UE hurlers after registering a 14-hit game in Friday's 8-1 triumph.
After Evansville (34-19, 15-7 MVC) rallied from a 5-4 deficit with a four-spot in the top half of the eighth, Aaron Meyer got the ball rolling with his second hit off the MSU bench - a double down the left-field line - to start the home half of the inning. Aces closer Sam Johns then dealt Joey Hawkins a walk, before Dylan Becker drove a one-out RBI single through the right side and Cory Kay coaxed another walk to load the bases.
Next, Johnson stroked a 2-0 pitch into right-center, giving Matheny and Becker ample time to cross the plate with the equalizing runs. Finally, Fultz fought back from an 0-2 hole to drive a liner into right that chased home Kay with the deciding tally.
Jon Harris (3-5) bounced back from a tough eighth frame with a scoreless ninth, working around a leadoff single by Eric McKibban by retiring three straight UE hitters to lock down the victory and a series win for the Bears.
Six different MSU hitters logged two-hit games and five Bears drove in at least one run in the rubber match, led by Johnson's 2-for-4 day that included a game-tying single in the seventh prior to his clutch hit in the eighth. Trey Massenberg matched a season high with two hits to go along with a career-high three steals, and Tate Matheny added two hits, an RBI and two runs scored for MSU.
The wild finish capped a back-and-forth battle that featured a series of lead changes before UE's big eighth inning led to the first advantage of more than a run for either club. Missouri State wasted little time in putting its offense in motion, as back-to-back singles by Hawkins and Matheny sparked a first-inning rally that handed the Bears a 1-0 lead. Patrick Drake began his final home game in an MSU uniform with a two-out run-scoring single to center to bring in Hawkins for the early Bears advantage.
After being limited to two runs over the first two games of the series, Evansville responded to the Bears' early tally with a second-inning run of its own to knot the score. A one-out walk to Jonathan Ramon, and a line-drive single to right by McKibban set the stage for Shain Showers' RBI bouncer to shortstop.
Fultz, who went 2-for-4 on the day, initiated another MSU scoring opportunity in the second with a leadoff double to right, and Massenberg's one-out single put the Bears on top once again, 2-1.
The lead would last until the top of the fourth, when UE plated two runs with the help of a pair of walks, a hit batsman and an error. Bears starter Andy Cheray issued a free pass to Boomer Synek to start the inning, then beaned McKibban with a one-out offering to push the tying run into scoring position. Showers greeted Bears reliever Sam Perez with a run-scoring single to left, before a miscue on the front end of a double-play attempt allowed McKibban to race home with the go-ahead run.
MSU pulled even again in the home half of the fourth when Massenberg singled, moved to second on a ground ball to second, then swiped third - his third steal of the - and scored on Hawkins' chopper to short.
UE surged ahead in the seventh, getting a sac fly by Synek to cash in on Kevin Kaczmarski's leadoff single. MSU answered the call in the bottom half of the inning, taking advantage of an error to plate a pair of unearned runs for a 5-4 advantage. Johnson's run-scoring single to left followed Drake's second hit of the day, and Blake Graham followed with a key two-out, pinch-single to right that brought in pinch runner Alex Jefferson.
But the Aces jumped on Harris to start the eighth, using back-to-back hits from Showers and Jarod Perry to kick-start their offense once again. A Jake Mahon grounder to short scored Showers with the equalizing run, before the third Harris wild pitch of the inning allowed Perry to come home with the go-ahead run. Synek dealt MSU what appeared to be a crippling blow, driving a two-run triple just beyond the reach of a diving Kay in right-center for an 8-5 UE cushion.
Johns (2-2) took the loss for Evansville, which clinched the outright Valley title earlier in the day with Indiana State's 2-1 loss to Bradley.
Kaczmarski finished the day 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored to lead the Aces' seven-hit attack, while Synek drove in three runs and Showers plated two more.
With their regular season complete, the Bears will open play at the 2014 MVC Baseball Championship in Terre Haute, Ind., Tuesday (May 20) as the No. 6 seed versus third-seeded Dallas Baptist at 3 p.m. (Central).