After being held scoreless for four innings, Missouri State erupted for a total of nine runs unanswered in their next four turns at bat to lock up a spot in the title game of the 2018 MVC Baseball Championship with a 9-6 decision over Indiana State Friday evening at Horner Ballpark.
Matt Brown homered in back-to-back at-bats to drive in three runs, and Jeremy Eierman delivered a clutch two-out, bases-loaded double to cap a key fifth-inning rally in helping the Bears (38-13) overcome an early three-run deficit for their third-straight win at the Valley Tournament.
Logan Wiley (7-5) recovered from a rocky stretch in the third inning to give MSU 6 1/3 strong innings, scattering four hits and allowing three runs to earn his seventh victory of the season.
ISU starter Weston Rivers (4-1) baffled the Missouri State offense for four innings, facing just one batter over the minimum, as the fourth-seeded Sycamores built a 3-0 lead. But the Bears battled back with a four-run fifth, using a pair of walks, a Jack Duffy single to break into the scoring column. After John Privitera drew ball four with the bases loaded to slice the deficit to two runs, Eierman gashed a two-out double into the left-field corner to clear the bases and hand the Bears a 4-3 advantage.
The Bears tacked on two more runs in the sixth, this time riding the first of Brown’s back-to-back homers to a 6-3 lead. After singles by Drew Millas and Ben Whetstone put runners on the corners with nobody out, ISU appeared to be on the verge of escaping the inning unharmed after recording a double play when Millas was ruled to have left third base early on Brooks Zimmerman’s fly ball to right. But Brown belted a towering two-run shot over the ISU bullpen in left-center to give Bears some much-needed breathing room.
Logan Geha’s second hit of the game ignited another two-run rally in the sixth. After a throwing error on a Hunter Steinmetz sacrifice bunt put two on with nobody out, sac flies from Privitera and Whetstone made it an 8-3 Missouri State advantage. Brown then went deep to right field to lead off the eighth inning, pushing the Bears’ bulge to six runs.
ISU (31-24) chipped away at the lead with three runs in the ninth, but Connor Sechler induced back-to-back grounders to end the contest and propel the Bears to their third title game appearance in four seasons.
Missouri State will await the winner of the B Bracket final featuring No. 2 DBU and No. 3 Bradley, slated for 11 a.m., Saturday (May 26). Should Bradley emerge victorious, it would face the Bears in the title game at 7 p.m. Saturday, but if DBU wins to force a second game Saturday at 4 p.m., the championship would take place Sunday (May 27) at 2 p.m.