-- Missouri State earned its fourth Missouri Valley Conference baseball series victory in five tries Saturday, outscoring Illinois State 5-2 after the fifth inning in a 6-3 victory over the Redbirds at Duffy Bass Field in Normal, Ill.
The Bears got to 10 games over .500 for the first time this season at 27-17, and moved into second in the league at 8-5 with Creighton’s victory at Wichita State. Missouri State trails CU by a game and a half for the MVC lead, and sits one half game ahead of WSU and Southern Illinois in third. The Redbirds dropped to 27-15 and 7-7 in conference play.
Missouri State escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first and broke the scoreless tie when Luke Voit
belted his second third-inning solo homer in as many days to put the Bears ahead 1-0.
Illinois State’s Tyler McNeely swatted a solo homer in the fourth and the Redbirds threatened again in the fifth, drawing a pair of walks off Blake Barber
to knock the Bears’ starter out after 4.1 innings and a season-high four free passes. Pierce Johnson
(5-4) came in from the bullpen and struck out the next two hitters to escape the jam.
The Bears grabbed the lead for good in the sixth, loading the bases with one out behind Kevin Medrano
’s single, a Spiker Helms
walk and a bunt single by Brock Chaffin
. Brent Seifert
then cleared the bases with a two-run double, putting the Bears ahead 3-1 after Chaffin was thrown out at home on the play.
The Redbirds answered with an RBI ground out from Brock Stewart in the sixth to pull within 3-2 before gifting Missouri State three runs in the next two innings.
In the seventh, Brett Marshall
fanned for out number three but reached on a passed ball, and Aaron Conway
walked before Medrano split the left-center gap for a 5-2 lead. Then in the eighth, Chaffin drew a leadoff walk and got to third base with two outs before scoring when ISU closer Kenny Long bobbled a bunt off Derek Mattea
Illinois State made things interesting in the ninth, using a bad-hop single with two outs to put runners on the corners. Ryan Court followed with an RBI single to bring McNeely to the plate as the tying run, ending Johnson’s day after 4.1 innings, two runs and six strikeouts. Dan Kickham
need only one pitch to get McNeely to ground out to third for his 10th save of the year and now trails only Shaun Marcum’s school-record total of 13 set in the 2003 season.
Missouri State goes for its first MVC sweep of the year Sunday at 1 p.m.