Evansville Bounces Bears From MVC Championship With 4-2 Decision
May 23, 2013
NORMAL, Ill. - Evansville scored four unanswered runs to overcome an early deficit and hand Missouri State a season-ending 4-2 setback Thursday afternoon at the Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Championship at Duffy Bass Field. MSU fell victim to a shutdown pitching performance for the second day in a row, as Purples Aces starter Josh Biggs limited the Bears to a pair of first-inning runs over eight innings to earn the victory.
Biggs (3-2) scattered seven hits and two walks while striking out three Bears, and closer Jake Naumann worked around a one-out walk and an error in the ninth to preserve the win for Evansville.
Chris Pearson led Evansville's offensive charge, reaching base in four of his five trips to the plate and igniting each of the Aces' first two scoring rallies. The senior catcher finished the day 3-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored, and Jake Mahon and Shain Showers added two hits for UE as well.
Held to a total of just three runs in their first two tournament outings, the Bears wasted little time in gaining the upper hand in game three. MSU jumped on Biggs with a pair of first-inning runs when Eric Cheray drew a one-out base-on-balls, and Spencer Johnson followed with a base hit. Luke Voit's grounder moved both baserunners into scoring position before Keenen Maddox drove them home with a liner into shallow right-center to give MSU a 2-0 lead.
The Aces answered in their half of the first, as Pearson walked with one out, moved to third on the first of Mahon's two hits, then scored on Jason Hockemeyer's bouncer to first that eluded Johnson for an error. Bears starter Andy Cheray escaped the inning without further trouble, striking out Jonathan Ramon and getting John Day to ground out to second for the final out.
Biggs would keep the Aces within arms distance, allowing four hits over the next three innings, but permitting just one baserunner to reach second base during the same stretch. MSU would see two promising innings halted by double-play balls, and Biggs would face the minimum over his final four innings of work. He retired the last eight Bears he encountered before handing the ball off to Naumann, who earned his ninth save of the season by inducing a fly ball off the bat of McComack and fanning pinch hitter Dylan Becker for the final outs of the game with a pair or runners on base.
UE's two-run fifth inning turned the tables for good, as Cheray (1-5) allowed a pair of hits and plunked two Aces to set up the game's key sequence. After Ramon's one-out single drove home Pearson with the tying run, the Bears freshman lefty beaned Day to load the bases and force a call to the MSU bullpen. Senior right-hander Erik Shannahan got Showers swinging for what appeared to be a key second out, but Kyle Pollock coaxed a two-out, bases-loaded walk on a borderline full-count offering to force home the go-ahead run.
Shannahan rebounded to turn in 3 1/3 solid innings, over which he struck out five and kept the Aces off the board until his fourth frame in the bottom of the eighth. UE scratched out an insurance run on a Kevin Kaczmarski double, Pearson's third single of the day and a sac fly to center by Mahon that made it a two-run game.
MSU showed signs of life in the ninth, as Koby Peebles drew a one-out walk and Conner Wilson reached base with the potential tying-run courtesy of an error. But Naumann closed the door on the Bears, who finished the tournament with a .163 team batting mark and just five total runs scored over their three games.
In his final game in a Bears uniform, Maddox led the MSU offense with a 2-for-4 day at the plate. Additionally, Matheny moved past Kevin Medrano into fourth place on the Bears' freshman hits list with his 77th safety of the season to conclude his rookie campaign with a team-best .336 batting average.
Missouri State (31-23) season closes with a disappointing late-season swoon that saw the Bears score more than three runs in just three of their final 17 contests, going 5-12 while hitting a combined .234 over the same stretch. Despite finishing the year with a school-record .972 team fielding percentage and the third-lowest club ERA (3.12) in program history, the Bears registered their worst team batting mark (.2657) and home run total (13) since 1973.
With the win, Evansville (24-33) keeps its MVC Championship hopes alive and moves on to play top-seeded Illinois State (38-18) in a 7:37 p.m. match-up this evening.