May 8, 2016
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Thanks to another big offensive performance, Southern Illinois completed its first regular-season series sweep of Missouri State with a 14-8 victory over the Bears at Hammons Field Sunday afternoon.
The Salukis (28-19-1, 9-6 MVC), who scored 10 unanswered runs in Saturday's 12-10 victory, started Sunday's game with a bang as well, totaling 13 runs before the Bears would put their first man in scoring position. SIU, which had never recorded a sweep of MSU in the two clubs' previous 27 regular-season series, gashed the Bears for 26 runs on 27 hits in the final two games of the series.
Michael Baird (8-3) limited the Bears to three singles while fanning six hitters and holding MSU scoreless over the first five frames en route to his Missouri Valley Conference-leading eighth victory of the season.
Connor Kopach led the SIU hit parade for the second straight game, going 3-for-6 to finish the series with eight hits, while Logan Blackfan (2-for-3, three runs scored) clubbed a grand slam for his second homer in as many games and finished the weekend with 10 RBIs.
MSU, which dropped its seventh consecutive Valley game for the first time in nine years, mounted a late rally powered by Spencer Johnson's 16th home run of the season. The Bears (29-17, 3-11 MVC) scored all eight of their runs over the final four frames, but could not overcome another costly start and suffered their 10th setback in 12 games.
After scoring 12 runs over the final six innings of their game two victory Saturday, the Salukis picked up right where they left off, plating three runs in the first two innings to seize control of the finale. Kopach, who went 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles Saturday, once again played a starring role in SIU's attack, doubling and scoring in the first, before tripling home two more runs in the second off MSU starter Austin Knight to stake his club to a 3-0 lead.
SIU wasn't finished, pushing five runs home after the second out had been recorded in the fourth to stretch its lead to 8-0. Knight nearly worked his way out of trouble by striking out Kopach with two men aboard. But Dylin Mucha drew a walk to load the bases, before Greg Lambert fouled off six two-strike pitches before coaxing ball four to force home a run. Blackfan made Knight and the Bears pay, launching a grand slam over the right-center field wall to double the SIU lead.
A Nick Hutchins double drove in another SIU tally in the fifth, before the Salukis took advantage of four consecutive bases-on-balls in the sixth to score four more runs. After a dropped fly ball opened the door for SIU, Lambert came through again with a bloop double to right, before Blackfan drew the first of the Salukis' four walks. Free passes to Drew Curtis and Hutchins forced home runs, and a double-play bouncer to short brought in a fourth run for a 13-0 SIU bulge.
The Bears finally broke through against Baird in the bottom of the sixth, using a hit batsman and three consecutive singles to score a pair of runs. After Jake Burger absorbed a Bair offering, Justin Paulsen singled for the second time in the game to give MSU its first man in scoring position. Blake Graham and Jordan Hovey followed with back-to-back RBI singles to cut the margin to 13-2.
Johnson would provide the key blow in MSU's four-run seventh, launching a long blast down the left-field line with two men on base to slice the deficit to 13-6. Burger and Johnson would add RBI doubles in the ninth, as the Bears threatened to make it a contest against SIU reliever Connor McFadden.
But, for the third time in the series, Salukis closer Ryan Netemeyer put the finishing touches on an SIU victory, this time retiring Graham on a fly ball to deep center, before striking out Hovey and getting a defensive gem from Will Farmer at short to clinch the win.
Johnson (2-for-5) paced the Bears' offense with his three RBIs, while both Paulsen and Hunter Steinmetz produced two-hit games.
Knight (4-2) was tagged with the loss in his second start of the week after allowing eight runs on seven hits over his 4.0 innings. Andy Cheray provided one of the few bright spots for the MSU pitching staff, allowing just one baserunner in his 2.0 innings of no-hit, shutout relief.
Up next, the Bears travel to Dallas for their final MVC road series of the season vs. Dallas Baptist. The Bears and Patriots open the three-game set Friday (May 13) with a 6:30 p.m. contest at Horner Ballpark.