April 18, 2015
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State bounced back from a series-opening loss to UT Martin with a 6-3 victory over the Skyhawks Saturday afternoon at Hammons Field. Matt Hall retired the first 16 UT Martin hitters of the game and finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts, while the MSU offense clicked early to build a six-run lead.
After an early UTM scoring spree in Friday's 6-2 game one loss pressed the MSU bullpen into extended duty, Hall (6-1) gave the Bears relief corps a rest with 8.0 strong innings Saturday. The left-hander cruised through the first half of the contest, fanning five consecutive Skyhawk hitters at one point and logging more strikeouts (7) than pitches called balls (6) through the first three frames.
Hall, who surpassed his previous personal high of 12 K's from his March 27 outing vs. Jacksonville, got Mikey Nantze to swing and miss at a third strike to start the sixth, before Matt Hirsch lined a single to right to give UTM its first baserunner of the afternoon. The MSU starter scattered five hits in all and allowed just a single earned run after four MSU errors aided the visitors' offense in the late innings.
The Bears (26-9), who struggled to find an offensive rhythm in Friday's opener, came out of the clubhouse swinging in game two. Joey Hawkins line-drive single to center kicked off a first-inning scoring rally, as Tate Matheny doubled to deep center field to set up a Justin Paulsen sacrifice fly that handed Hall and MSU a 1-0 lead.
Paulsen, who finished 1-for-2 with a walk in the cleanup slot, would deliver again in the third to hike the margin to two runs, this time with his team-leading fifth home run of the season to right field off UT Martin starter Dillon Symon (0-1).
Missouri State, which stranded five baserunners in scoring position over the first five innings, strung together four consecutive hits to start the sixth as part of a four-run rally. Spencer Johnson tripled into the left-field corner to lead off the inning, then came home on Matt Dezort's pinch-hit single. Jake Burger, who led the Bears' 11-hit attack with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, lined a base hit into right, before Cory Kay legged out a bunt single after the Skyhawks failed to cover first base. Dylan Becker brought in Dezort with a sac fly to left, before a UTM fielding error and a Matheny RBI-ground out to short plated two more runs to cap the rally.
One of the few flaws in Hall's afternoon came on the defensive side, as two of the four MSU errors on the day helped set up the Skyhawks' first scoring chance in the seventh. Hall put Nico Zych aboard with a one-out walk--one of just two free passes issued by the junior--then moved him into scoring position on an errant pickoff attempt. He recovered to strikeout pinch hitter Andrew Massey for the second out, but Hawkins committed just his third error of the season on a grounder off the bat of Jake Deason, allowing Zych to trot home with UTM's first run. Nantze followed with a run-scoring double down the left-field line on an 0-2 pitch, before Hall escaped the inning thanks to a sliding catch by Kay on a liner to right.
Two more throwing errors by Hall led to a third Skyhawks run and brought the potential tying run to the plate with just one out in the eighth. But Hall induced a fly ball to right from Zych, then struck out Massey for the second time to squash the threat and end his afternoon.
Bryan Young closed out the victory and his seventh save of the season by working a scoreless ninth. After allowing an infield single by Deason to start the inning, the Bears junior closer got Nantze to pop up to second, then punctuated the win by turning a 1-6-3 double play on a comebacker from Hirsch.
In addition to big offensive days from Burger and Paulsen, the Bears received a boost from both Hawkins and Matheny, who registered 2-for-5 days at the plate.
Up next, the Bears and Skyhawks (11-25) conclude their weekend series with a 1:05 p.m. matchup Sunday at Hammons Field.