Evansville scored in each of the first three innings to build a four-run lead, then squashed a series of Missouri State scoring chances to earn a 7-1 victory in the deciding game of the two clubs’ Missouri Valley Conference series at Hammons Field Sunday afternoon.
The Purple Aces (23-15, 6-3 MVC) notched their third consecutive MVC series win, sandwiching Korbin Williams’ two-run homer in the second with single tallies in the first and third frames to establish a 4-0 advantage. Boomer Synek delivered an RBI single for the first of his three hits on the day in the opening inning, before Williams unloaded on an Austin Knight offering with a man aboard the following inning to stake UE starter Alex Weigand to a 3-0 lead.
Back-to-back doubles by Trey Hair and Synek in the fourth led to another scoring chance, as Josh Jyawook’s ground ball to second brought in the fourth UE run of the day.
Facing an early deficit, the Bears engineered several scoring opportunities of their own, only to see Weigand and reliever Brent Jurceka (5-2) work their way free of danger in each instance. MSU would leave a total of seven men on base in the first three innings and strand at least one baserunner in each of the first seven innings. Overall, the Bears left 13 men on base for the game, including nine in scoring position.
MSU put two men on in the first courtesy of a Jake Burger single and a walk to Jeremy Eierman, but Weigand induced a ground ball to third off the bat of Spencer Johnson to keep the Bears off the board. In the second, Blake Graham and Justin Paulsen delivered base hits, but the Bears came up empty once again when Hunter Steinmetz chopped a bouncer to first for the final out.
Weigand came up with his biggest escape act in the third after back-to-back walks to Johnson and Matt Dezort and another Graham single plated the lone MSU run of the game and loaded the bases. UE’s freshman left-hander got Eduardo Castro to chase a third strike to thwart the threat.
Still trailing 4-1, the Bears mounted another scoring chance in the fifth, as Eierman singled and Johnson doubled to put runners at second and third with nobody out. Reliever Brent Jurceka extinguished the rally, however, coaxing three consecutive ground balls to keep MSU from scoring once again.
UE would open up a six-run lead in the late innings, using three of their seven doubles on the day to extend their advantage. Shain Showers’ two-out double in the sixth would come home to roost on Spencer Nelson’s RBI single, before two-baggers by Williams and Hair would ultimately help the Aces add two more runs in the eighth.
Jurceka tossed 4.0 innings of one-hit, shutout relief, striking out four and walking two to earn the victory for UE. Combined with Ryan Brady’s scoreless ninth, the two UE relievers held the Bears to just three baserunners over the final five frames.
Knight (3-1) suffered the loss for MSU after allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits over his 2 2/3 innings. Jake Fromson fanned a career-best eight hitters and stretched his scoreless innings streak to 19.2 before surrendering a total of three runs over his 5.0 innings of relief.
Burger’s 2-for-5 day led the Bears (28-10, 3-5 MVC), who dropped just their eighth home game since the start of the 2015 season and their first Valley home series since April 2014. Paulsen contibuted a 2-for-4 day, while Graham drove in the lone MSU run and also finished with two hits.
The Bears will complete their home-and-home series with Missouri Tuesday (April 26) evening in Columbia, where the two squads will play a 6 p.m. contest at Taylor Stadium.