Missouri St. fights back in 10th to preserve MVC win against Illinois St.
NORMAL, Ill. -- Missouri State erased a one-run deficit in the ninth inning, then exploded for five runs in the 10th to claim an 8-3 victory on Friday in the opening contest of a three-game Missouri Valley Conference series with Illinois State. With the victory, the No. 23 Bears (29-9, 8-2 MVC) stretched the nation's longest road win streak to 11 consecutive games and improved to 13-3 overall in road contests this season.
Dylan Becker, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, sparked the Bears' decisive rally with a one-out RBI double, before a run-scoring single by Alex Jefferson and a bases-loaded triple by Jake Burger broke the game open. MSU, which totaled five of its 14 hits in the 10th, mounted its game-clinching charge after overcoming an eighth-inning rally by the Redbirds (20-19, 5-8 MVC) that handed the home club a 3-2 lead.
Spencer Johnson brought in Tate Matheny with the tying run in the ninth after the Bears' junior center fielder ignited the late offensive surge with a one-out single against ISU's Jake Sale (0-1). Matheny swiped second base for his second steal of the game, then came round on Johnson's base hit to center.
Blake Graham got the ball rolling with a leadoff hit in the 10th -- the first of two hits in the inning by Missouri State reserves. After Graham came through with another critical steal of second, Matt Fultz laid down his second key bunt of the night and the first sacrifice of his MSU career to move the runner to third. Becker then lined an 0-1 pitch from Sale into the right center field gap to put the Bears on top to stay.
After a fly ball resulted in the second out of the inning, Joey Hawkins kept the rally alive with an infield hit before the Redbirds elected to intentionally walk Matheny to load the bases. Jefferson delivered with a laser shot into right field to bring in Becker for a 5-3 MSU lead. Burger put the punctuation point on the rally, blasting a bases-clearing double to right to stretch the cushion to five runs.
MSU closer Bryan Young (5-0), who pitched the Bears out of trouble with a pair of strikeouts in the home half of the ninth to send the game into extra innings, closed out the victory after ISU loaded the bases thanks to an error, a Mason Snyder single and a walk that brought the potential tying run into the on-deck circle. Young fanned Blake Molitor for his fourth strikeout, extending his string of consecutive outings earning either a win or a save to 10 in a row.