Evansville pounded out 14 hits and took advantage of four Missouri State errors to run away with a 14-5 victory Friday evening in the opening contest of a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series at Hammons Field.
Josh Jyawook led the Aces’ hit parade with a 3-for-6 night while driving in three runs, and Jeff Christen reached base safely in all six of his plate appearances, drawing four of UE’s 11 walks. The Aces’ 14 runs marked a season-high for a Bears opponent, while their walk total represented the most handed out by MSU hurlers in a single game since the Bears issued 14 free passes vs. Sam Houston State on Feb. 28, 2009.
The Purple Aces (22-14, 5-2 MVC) seized control early and never looked back, building an 8-0 lead and relying on the pitching of Patrick Schnieders (4-2) to snap a five-game losing streak in its series with Missouri State. UE cashed in on a one-out MSU error in the second to score the game’s first three runs, then took advantage of another Bears miscue in the third to score five more.
After Boomer Synek’s single started the second, MSU starter Jordan Knutson (5-3) retired Korbin Williams on a strikeout, then coaxed what appeared to be a tailor-made double-play bouncer to shortstop, but Jeremy Eierman’s flip to second was off target, allowing both runners to advance safely. Evansville would make the Bears pay immediately, as the next three Aces would reach base, including run-producing hits by Jonathon Ramon and Shain Showers that handed the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Another critical MSU error would fuel the Aces’ five-run rally in the third following a leadoff double by Trey Hair. With one out, Williams swung through a third strike, but catcher Matt Fultz’s throw to first in an attempt to complete the strikeout sailed over the head of Justin Paulsen, allowing the fourth UE run of the game to cross the plate. Once again, the Aces would convert the mistake into instant offense, as five of the next six batters recorded a hit or a walk. Jyawook’ base hit to left brought home Williams for a 5-0 UE lead, before a bases-loaded walk to Stewart Nelson and a two-run single by Eric McKibban stretched the lead to eight runs.
MSU struck back in the home half of the third, as Jake Burger’s 15th homer of the season—a two-out, two-run shot to right-center—put the Bears on the board and trimmed the deficit to 8-2. Eierman followed suit the following frame, belting a leadoff shot over the left-field bullpen for his fourth long ball in the last 11 games to help MSU close the gap to five runs.
But another error—the fourth of the night for MSU—on another potential inning-ending double-play attempt in the fifth led to two more UE runs, extending the Aces’ lead back to seven runs. After UE scored again on Nelson’s RBI single in the sixth, the Bears (27-9, 2-4 MVC) answered in the seventh with back-to-back hits from Hunter Steinmetz and Spencer Johnson.
The Aces, who scored in six of the nine innings, plated a single tally in the eighth, then struck for two more in the top of the ninth on a two-run double by Jyawook that pushed the lead into double digits.
MSU’s Matt Dezort accounted for the final run of the game, leading off the home half of the ninth with a pinch-hit home run off Forrest Herrmann.
Schnieders picked up the win for the Aces, allowing three runs on just three hits while striking out six Bears. In addition to big performances from Jyawook and Christen, the Aces got two-hit nights from Nelson and Synek, while McKibban drove in three runs as well.
Knutson struck out eight Aces over his 4.0 innings, allowing only four earned runs out of the 10 scored by UE during his appearance. Jake Fromson provided 2.0 innings of one-hit, shutout relief for the Bears to extend his personal scoreless streak to 16 2/3 innings over his last seven outings.
The two teams resume their series Saturday (April 23) with a 2:05 p.m. game, before concluding the weekend with a 1:05 p.m. contest Sunday.