May 1, 2015
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Missouri State scored seven times over the first five innings, then rode eight strong innings from starting pitcher Jon Harris to claim an 8-3 victory over Wichita State in the opening game of the two clubs' three-game Missouri Valley Conference series at Hammons Field Friday evening.
Harris (5-1) scattered four hits and notched his fourth double-digit strikeout effort of the season, fanning 11 Shockers while issuing just one walk. The visitors tallied just a single fifth-inning run against the MSU junior, who retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced before handing the ball off to his bullpen to start the ninth.
The Bears (32-10, 10-3 MVC) jumped on WSU for eight of their nine hits to build a 7-1 lead through five frames, led by 2-for-3 nights from Spencer Johnson and Justin Paulsen, as well as three RBIs from Blake Graham. Eric Cheray also chipped in with a two-hit effort, extending a recent hot streak that has included seven hits in 13 official at-bats since the senior returned from an eight-week layoff due to injury.
For the second consecutive game, the Bears broke out of the gate with an offensive flurry that resulted in an early advantage. Just as he did in Tuesday's 13-8 win over Missouri, leadoff man Dylan Becker set the stage for a first-inning rally against the Shockers, lining the first offering of the night from WSU starter Isaac Anderson into right field for a double. Joey Hawkins' sacrifice ultimately brought home the first run of the contest when Anderson's throw to first glance off the glove of second baseman Tanner Kirk for an error that allowed Becker to come all the way around for a 1-0 MSU lead.
MSU struck for four more runs over the following two innings, as a Johnson solo shot in the second and two-out hits by Paulsen and Graham in the third stretched the margin to 5-0. Johnson belted a first-pitch homer to center--his third round-tripper in MSU's last six games--to make it a 2-0 game, before singles by Hawkins and Cheray set the stage for the Bears' biggest rally of the night in the third. Paulsen's liner into right chased home Hawkins, before a walk to Johnson extended the inning for Graham, who launched a two-run double into the gap in right-center to bring in two more runs.
Harris allowed only one hit and faced just two batters over the minimum through four innings before a leadoff single by Mikel Mucha started a fifth-inning threat. A one-out walk to Taylor Sanagorski moved the runner into scoring position, and Trey Vickers' single to right plated Mucha with the first WSU tally of the game.
The Bears answered in the home half of the inning, however, scoring two more runs after the first our batters reached safely against Anderson. Cheray logged his second hit of the game to start the rally, before a hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases. Johnson then drove home his run of the night with a base hit to left, and Graham's bouncer to first brought in Jake Burger to make it a 7-1 affair.
After retiring two straight Shockers to escape the fifth, Harris put the WSU bats on ice from that point, setting down nine straight before a Daniel Kihle single with one out in the eighth halted the string. Harris responded with his 11th strikeout, getting Ryan Tinkham looking, then retiring Sam Hilliard on a fly ball to center to conclude his night.
A Paulsen double and three wild pitches resulted in another Missouri State run in the seventh, and Zach Merciez closed out the win with an inning of relief. The Shockers (18-27, 6-7 MVC) scratched out a pair of runs on four ninth-inning hits, highlighted by a pinch-hit RBI triple by Zach Reding.
Anderson (4-6) was tagged with the loss for WSU after allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over his 5.0 innings. Gunnar Troutwine turned in the long two-hit effort for WSU, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored for the Shockers.
The two clubs continue their series with a 2:05 p.m. contest Saturday (May 2) before wrapping up the weekend with a 1:05 p.m. game Sunday.