Missouri State matched a season high four home runs to overcome an early four-run defict and stave off elimination at the MVC Championship with an 11-4 victory over host Indiana State Friday afternoon at Bob Warn Field.
After falling behind 4-0 after just an inning-and-a-half of play, the Bears scored 11 unanswered runs and used 7 1/3 innings of two-hit relief from Sam Perez to earn a rematch with Bradley Friday (May 27) evening at 6:34 p.m. (CDT).
Missouri State scored six times in the third inning, getting a three-run homer from Jake Burger and a solo shot from Jeremy Eierman to seize the lead for good. The Bears added four runs in the sixth as well, with Justin Paulsen launching the fourth MSU long ball to put the game out of reach.
Perez made sure the lead stayed intact, as the senior permitted just two hits while striking out nine Sycamores to become the 10th Bear to top the 100-strikeout mark in a season. In his school-record 35th appearance of the season, the right-hander extended his personal string of scoreless innings to 20.0 straight over his last five appearances en route to notching his 19th career victory as a Bear.
Paulsen powered MSU’s 14-hit attack by going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored, while Burger (2-for-5) and Johnson each delivered their NCAA Division I-leading 21st long balls of the season, as the Bears matched their April 6 season-best four-homer performance vs. Kansas.
Just as they did in Thursday’s 10-0 setback to Bradley, the Bears fell victim to another quick start by an opponent to find themselves in a first-inning hole. This time, three of the first four ISU hitters recorded hits off MSU starter Austin Knight to stake the Sycamores to a 2-0 advantage. Andy DeJesus got the ball rolling with a single through the right side of the infield, and Andy Young chased him home with a double down the left-field line. With one out, Dane Giesler’s base hit to right brought home Young for the second ISU tally of the inning.
ISU kept the pressure on in the second, using a Kaden Moore double and a Tyler Friis sac fly to bring in two more runs, chasing Knight from the contest after just an inning and a third.
Missouri State began its comeback with a bang in the home half of the second, as Johnson’s leadoff homer cut the margin to three runs. The Bears kicked their offense into high gear the following frame, as the first five hitters would reach base safely against ISU starter Weston Rivers (3-1). A leadoff single by Paulsen, followed by Meyer’s triple to left-center, plated the first of the Bears’ six runs in the inning.
Next, Hunter Steinmetz doubled home Meyer, and Matt Dezort drew a walk to set up another big blast—this one a three-run shot by Burger that handed MSU its first lead of the game. After a liner to center off the bat of Johnson resulted in the first out of the inning, Eierman greeted ISU reliever Jeremy McKinney by belting his first offering over the left-field wall for a solo shot that stretched the cushion to 7-4.
MSU’s offense sealed the outcome by batting around a second time in the sixth, the key blow coming in the form of a three-run homer by Paulsen. Alex Jefferson drove in the 11th run of the game with the second of his three hits off the Bears’ bench.
In addition to big days from Paulsen and Jefferson, Meyer chipped in with a two-hit day at the plate for MSU.
Indiana State concluded its 2016 season with a 35-21 mark, while the Bears improved to 36-20 with their seventh win in eight contests.
Story: Missouri State Athletics