Feb. 21, 2014
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - After dominating play for eight innings and building a seemingly insurmountable lead, Missouri State withstood Northern Illinois' eight-run rally in the ninth to pull out a 9-8 victory Friday to open play at the Lobo Invite. Cody Schumacher was brilliant in his first start of the season, working five perfect innings and six hitless frames overall to earn the win, while Eric Cheray's second four-hit game as a Bear powered MSU's 19-hit attack.
Schumacher was untouchable throughout his appearance, retiring the first 15 NIU hitters of the game before Connor Schomig reached base on an error to start the sixth. MSU's senior right-hander issued a walk to the next batter, but promptly recovered to set down the next three hitters in order to complete his day.
NIU (0-4) would not record its first hit of the day until Chris Divarco singled up the middle to lead off the eighth against Sam Perez. MSU out hit the Huskies 19-1 over the first eight innings, thanks in large part to a career day from Cheray, who singled, doubled and tripled twice to drive in three runs. Matt Fultz also starred for the Bears, logging his first three-hit effort with three runs batted-in on a pair of doubles and a single in five trips to the plate.
The Bears (3-1) used their relentless early offensive barrage to build a nine-run lead, only to watch the Huskies unleash a string of seven hits that would ultimately put the tying run at third and the potential winning run at second. The first six Huskies to bat in the ninth reached base against MSU relievers Cole Hagen and Zach Merciez, with the first of two Brad Mallder hits in the inning plating NIU's first run of the game. A Micah McCulloch single produced a second tally, before a Schomig sac fly, an error and a Justin Fletcher RBI single pulled the Huskies to within 9-6.
Tommy Hook's comebacker resulted in the second out of the inning, but Mallder came through again, driving a two-run single to right to make it a one-run game. After issuing a walk to McCulloch to load the bases, Adam Anawalt got the job done for the Bears, however, coaxing Landon Tenhagen to pop-up into shallow right field for the final out of the game.
The save marked the second for Anawalt in three appearances this year, while Schumacher (2-0) improved to 11-2 as a Bear with the win. Perez was strong in his first mound appearance of the year as well, turning in two shutout innings of relief over which he struck out a career-best three hitters while allowing just one baserunner.
MSU scored single runs in the first two innings, then broke the game open with four runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to break the game open. Dylan Becker and Spencer Johnson got things started in the first, delivering back-to-back singles with one out before Fultz drove in the first run of the day with a grounder to second. Cheray laced his first triple to right-center to start the second, and Patrick Drake brought him home with a bouncer to short for a 2-0 Bears' lead.
The margin grew in the fifth, as walks to Becker and Johnson initiated a string of five straight Bears reaching against NIU starter Eli Anderson. Fultz's double drove in two, before Cheray tripled again to chase home Fultz and Conor Smith, who registered one of his two hits as part of the rally.
Joey Hawkins started MSU's sixth-inning scoring threat with his second single of the afternoon, and Tate Matheny drew a walk before four consecutive two-out hits netted three more runs. Johnson and Cheray each drove in runs with base hits, while Fultz and Smith kept the rally going with singles of their own.
In all, six different Bears recorded multi-hit games as MSU finished with its best single-game hit total in a nine-inning contest since April 12, 2012, when it gashed Illinois State for 20 hits.
As the leader of NIU's comeback bid, Mallder finished 2-for-2 with 3 RBIs, while Fletcher scored a pair of ninth-inning runs to pace the Huskies' attack.
The Bears continue play in Albuquerque with a Saturday doubleheader, beginning with a 1 p.m. (Central) game against Northern Illinois, followed by a 5 p.m. match-up against host New Mexico.