Kickham Strikes Out 14, But Baseball Bears Lose 7-5
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Missouri State southpaw Mike Kickham posted the 11th game in school history of at least 14 strikeouts and the Bears’ pitching staff fanned 17 Illinois State Redbirds in all, but it was not enough as the offense was held scoreless after the third inning in a 7-5 Missouri Valley Conference loss Friday at Hammons Field.
Kickham recorded 11 consecutive outs via strike out after getting MVC batting leader Kevin Tokarski out to begin the game and fanned 14 total in 5.2 innings before handing the game to the bullpen tied at 5-5.
The Bears (18-26, 4-9 MVC) allowed multiple baserunners in the sixth and seventh and worked out of trouble, but could not do so in the eighth, when the Redbirds (22-18, 10-3) plated a pair after having a runner on first with two outs. A single and a hit batter loaded the bases for Matt Mirabal to hit an 0-2 pitch to left for the two-run single that proved to be the difference.
Offense wasn’t hard to come by early for the Bears. Missouri State loaded the bases with nobody out in the first, scoring twice when Christian Overstreet drew a walk and starter Corey Maines tossed a wild pitch. Travis McComack hit an RBI single and Kevin Medrano had a sacrifice fly in the second to make the score 4-1, and Keenen Maddox hit a solo homer in the third before the bats went cold.
Leadoff errors cost the Bears in both the second and third frames as ISU’s Jake Thornton’s two-out single in the second drove in an unearned run and Tokarski followed the MSU miscue in the third with a two-run homer into the left-field bullpen that pulled the Redbirds to 4-3. Evan Kohli hit a solo homer in the fifth and Anthony Ruffolo added an RBI single later in the frame for the 5-5 tie.
Missouri State threatened in the bottom of the ninth, getting the tying run to second base after McComack’s leadoff walk and a one-out double by Medrano. ISU brought in reliever Kenny Long, the nation’s leader in opponent average at .142, to record his sixth save.
Clay Murphy (3-2) took the loss for MSU in relief, striking out two, and Blake Barber fanned one in the ninth to push MSU’s strikeout total to 17 in the game, two shy of the school record.
The series continues at 2 p.m. Saturday.