April 20, 2012
WICHITA, Kan. - Behind six shutout innings from Nick Petree and a five-run third inning, the Missouri State Bears claimed game one of their Missouri Valley Conference series with Wichita State, 6-0, Friday evening at Eck Stadium. The Bears' sophomore right-hander struck out nine batters and held the Shockers to four hits in stretching his string of consecutive innings without giving up an earned run to 49 1/3 innings.
Petree, who has not allowed an earned run since March 2, got a helping hand from Tyler Burgess in posting the Bears' sixth shutout of the season. The freshman left-hander surrendered just one hit over three innings to notch his ninth save of the season, as the Bears (28-11, 7-2 MVC) won for just the fifth time in 24 games against the Shockers (23-18, 5-5 MVC) on their home field over the last decade.
The victory did not come without a struggle in the early stages of the game. MSU squandered a pair of scoring opportunities in the first two innings, thanks to a bad bounce and some clutch pitching by WSU starter Josh Smith. After Kevin Medrano singled to center with one out in the opening frame to give the Bears their first baserunner of the night, Brent Seifert drove what appeared to be a sure run-scoring double over the head of left fielder Mikel Mucha. However, the ball took one big hop and cleared the wall to hold Medrano at third base on the ground-rule double. Smith got cleanup hitter Luke Voit to look at a called third strike, then slammed the door shut by blowing a third strike by Brock Chaffin to end the inning.
After Smith worked around a lead-off single to strand another Bear in scoring position in the top of the second, it was Petree's turn to work his way out of a sticky situation in the home half of the frame. Casey Gillaspie got the ball rolling with a one-out single, and Erik Harbutz blooped a double into shallow left field to give the Shockers a pair of runners in scoring position. But, like his counterpart, Petree came up with two critical strikeouts to get out of the inning unscathed.
MSU finally broke through with five runs on six hits to take control for good in the third inning. Spiker Helms and Medrano served as catalysts in the game-changing rally, starting off the inning with back-to-back base hits before Seifert brought home the game's first run with a sacrifice fly to center. The Bears were nowhere close to being done, as Voit delivered a single up the middle to chase home Medrano, Chaffin coaxed a walk from Smith and Keenen Maddox kicked off a string of three consecutive base hits that would ultimately stretch the lead to four runs. Eric Cheray provided the Bears' final tally, laying down a well-executed squeeze bunt that allowed Maddox to trot home for a 5-0 MSU lead.
Petree (8-2) preserved the Bears' cushion, despite running into trouble in both the third and fourth innings. The Shockers generated their first scoring threat of the game via a one-out single by Taylor Doggett and two-out walks to Don Lambert and Johnny Coy in the third. But Petree wiggled out of that jam by fanning Gillaspie on a 3-2 pitch, then got out of a two-on, two-out situation without any damage by retiring Doggett on a fly ball to center.
Petree finished his night by retiring six of the last seven hitters he faced before yielding to his bullpen after throwing 119 pitches through six innings. The victory marked his eighth in his last nine outings and lowered his league-leading season ERA to 0.77.
Missouri State added an insurance run in the seventh when Dylan Becker lined a two-out single into right to drive in Chaffin for a six-run lead. But Burgess would not need any help in shutting down the Shockers to move into a tie for third place on the Bears' single-season saves list. He would set down eight of the first nine hitters he faced before Ryan Hege posted the Shockers' first hit against the freshman with two out in the ninth.
Five different Bears posted two-hit performances to help MSU out-hit the Shockers by a13-5 margin. The Bears top three hitters in the batting order--Helms, Medrano and Seifert--were especially dangerous, combining to go 6-for-13, while Maddox and Trey Massenberg each went 2-for-3 on the night.
Smith (4-3) was saddled with the loss for WSU after giving up five runs on nine hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings.
The Bears and Shockers will square off in game two at 2 p.m. Saturday, before wrapping up the weekend series with a 1 p.m. contest Sunday.