Thanks to an early offensive explosion that saw its offense score 11 times in the first three innings, Missouri State locked up its fourth-consecutive victory Friday with a 17-5 rout of Illinois State at Hammons Field.
Matt Fultz recorded perhaps his best offensive day as Bear with hits in all four of his at-bats, as well as a career-high three RBIs to help MSU to its fourth-consecutive victory. The Bears, who matched their season-best run total in an inning with an eight-run third, also tacked on six tallies in the fifth to extend their lead to 17-2. MSU was able to equal its team season high for hits (18) using a balanced attack that saw all nine MSU starters log at least one hit and one RBI.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the first on back-to-back doubles by Alex Jefferson and Jake Burger, then stretched their lead to three runs on the first of Fultz’s career-best four hits — a two-run single — in the second. MSU then broke the game wide open by sending 13 batters to the plate in the third, scoring eight times on seven hits, a pair of walks and a hit batsman. Back-to-back triples by Jeremy Eierman and Blake Graham — the first two of four three-baggers for the Bears in the game — set off a string of five straight hits for MSU. Justin Paulsen’s two-run single made pushed the Bears’ run total to double digits, before Eierman’s second run-producing hit of the inning capped the rally.
Spencer Johnson kicked off another scoring bonanza in the fifth, launching his 19th home run of the season to match Burger for the team and Missouri Valley Conference lead. A triple by Paulsen, and run-scoring hits by Eierman, Graham and Fultz extended the margin to 15-2, before Jefferson’s triple brought in two more runs.
The four-triple night for the Bears marked their first since accomplishing the feat vs. Saint Louis on March 29, 2006.
ISU mounted its biggest offensive push in the top of the sixth, touching up MSU starter Jordan Knutson for three runs on three consecutive hits and an error. The junior left-hander avoided further damage by inducing a double-play roller to shortstop, then fanning Ryan Hutchinson for the final out in the inning.
Knutson (6-6) scattered six hits and allowed all five ISU runs (three earned) to stop a personal string of five straight losing decisions with his first mound victory since the Bears’ MVC opener at Bradley on April 8.
In addition to Fultz’s career night, Eierman turned in his third-consecutive game driving in at least three runs and his second outing of four or more hits in the Bears’ last three contests, going 4-for-5 with three runs batted-in. In MSU’s three games this week, the freshman has gone a combined 10-for-14 (.714) with 11 RBIs and seven runs scored.
Graham also contributed a big offensive performance, finishing 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and a season-high three runs scored.
Owen Miller (2-for-4) and Blake Molitor (2-for-3) powered the Redbird attack, while starter David Meade (2-4) took the loss after allowing the first 11 MSU runs of the game over 2 2/3 innings.
The two clubs will conclude their series and the regular season Saturday (May 21) with a 2:05 p.m. contest at Hammons Field. The Bears will honor their seven seniors with an on-field ceremony that is scheduled to begin at approximately 1:40 p.m.