March 29, 2015
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Missouri State took advantage of four Jacksonville errors and another strong pitching performance from Jordan Knutson to complete a three-game sweep of the Dolphins with an 8-1 win Sunday at Sessions Stadium. The Bears tallied seven unearned runs to post their fifth consecutive win, thanks in large part to 8 2/3 shutout innings from Knutson and an offense that outscored the Dolphins by a 26-7 margin in the series.
Knutson (1-1), who scattered six hits and fanned six batters, retired 14 straight at one point to earn his first win as a Bear. The left-hander kept the Dolphins off the scoreboard until Casey Cribb's two-out double in the ninth snapped an 18 2/3 inning scoreless drought for JU, which fell to 12-15 on the season.
Matt Fultz led the Bears' 15-hit attack with a career-best four hits in five trips to the plate, and Dylan Becker completed a red-hot weekend by going 3-for-4 with a pair of walks. Becker tormented the Dolphins with nine hits in 13 official at-bats in the series.
Missouri State took advantage of the first two JU errors to plate five unearned runs in the third inning. The Bears' big inning started with a Joey Hawkins chopper to short that got the best of J.J. Gould to put the Bears' leadoff man aboard for the third-straight inning. After Tate Matheny flew out to center, Justin Paulsen's ground ball to first glanced off the glove of Connor Marabell to put runners on the corners, and Blake Graham handed MSU the lead for good with a base hit to right.
Next, Spencer Johnson drew a walk from JU starter Justin Russell, before Fultz's bloop single fell untouched in right-center to bring in Paulsen, before Jake Burger's liner to left chased home Graham for a 3-0 Bears' lead. The next MSU hitter, Aaron Meyer promptly made it a four-run game with a bouncer to the right side, and Becker capped the scoring with an RBI single to right.
MSU tacked on a run in the sixth when Matheny doubled with two out and Paulsen recorded the first of his two RBIs in the game with a base hit. The Bears then capitalized on Dolphin errors to notch single tallies in both the seventh and ninth innings to stretch their lead to 8-0.
As he did in his previous start against Indiana State, Knutson maneuvered his way out of several early jams to give the Bears time to build their lead. JU threatened in each of the first two frames, as back-to-back hits by Gould and Angelo Amendolare set up a first-inning scoring chance, only to see Hawkins initiate an inning-ending 6-3 double-play ball. JU mounted another charge in the second with singles by Seth DeWitt and Nathan Koslowski, but Knutson once again avoided trouble by inducing a fielder's choice ground ball and striking out Alex Seifert for the final out.
The Bears' sophomore hurler would cruise through the middle innings, allowing just one hit from the third through the eighth frames. After a two-out walk to DeWitt in the fourth, Knutson sat down 14 consecutive JU batters before issuing a free pass to Amendolare to lead off the ninth.
Nick Brown closed out the win by recording the final out following Cribb's pinch-hit double to right that chased home Amendolare with the lone JU run of the day.
In addition to big days from Becker and Fultz, the Bears got two-hit efforts from Paulsen and Burger to register their fourth straight double-digit hit total.
Up next, the Bears will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday (March 31) for a 6:35 p.m. game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Baum Stadium.