Sophomore pitcher Jake Powers gave Missouri State all he had for 9 1/3 innings Thursday night, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Bears quest for a Missouri Valley Conference crown alive, as Southern Illinois pulled out a 3-2 win in 10 innings to advance to the title game of the State Farm MVC Baseball Championship. Brian Bajer’s sacrifice fly plated the game winner for the sixth-seeded Salukis (31-27), who will meet eighth-seeded Creighton (25-28) for the Valley Tournament title and the right to represent the conference in the NCAA Championship Saturday at 7 p.m. at Hammons Field.
The Salukis’ critical rally spoiled a career performance by Powers (2-2), who carried the Bears by allowing only a pair of unearned runs on eight hits while striking out five and walking just one through the game’s first nine innings. The right-hander ran into trouble in the 10th however, issuing back-to-back walks to Chris Serritella and Jordan Sivertsen, before a double steal set the stage for Bajer’s fly ball to center that allowed the decisive run to score.
The Bears (39-20) mounted a rally of their own with two out in the ninth just to get the game into extra innings. After Brent Seifert reached base via a throwing error, Keenen Maddox drove in the equalizing run with a line drive to shallow right-center against SIU reliever Todd Eaton (3-0).
Maddox finished the night with two of the Bears’ four hits against a stingy SIU pitching staff, led by freshman starter Sam Coonrod, who retired the first 11 batters of the game and kept the Bears hitless until Maddox led off the fifth with his team-leading seventh home run of the season to tie the game at 1-1. Coonrod permitted just two hits and a pair of walks while fanning seven Bears over six innings, and left the game in position to pick up the win when the Salukis took the lead in the top of the seventh courtesy of a Seifert throwing error and a wild pitch by Powers.
The unearned run in the seventh was the second of the night for SIU, which also took advantage of two MSU defensive miscues to grab a 1-0 lead. The four-error night for the Bears followed a season-high five errors in MSU’s 11-8 victory over Bradley earlier in the day Thursday.
Maddox carried the offensive load for the Bears, finishing 2-for-4 and driving in both Missouri State runs in the setback.