Missouri State Rallies to Down Aces, 9-8, in Regular-Season Finale
May 17, 2014HOOSIER SPORTS 365
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The University of Evansville baseball team fell to Missouri State, 9-8, in its regular-season finale Saturday afternoon at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo., as the Bears rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth and stranded the potential game-tying run at second base in the top of the ninth.
Junior Kevin Kaczmarski led Evansville (34-19, 15-5 MVC) at the plate by going 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, while sophomore Eric McKibban finished 2-for-4 and scored a run. Fellow sophomore Shain Showers drove in a pair of runs and scored another as part of a 2-for-3 performance and junior Boomer Synek added a team-high three RBI that included a two-run triple.
The Aces used seven separate pitchers on the afternoon and senior Sam Johns (2-2) was saddled with the loss, after allowing four runs on three hits and a pair of walks in just 0.1 innings. Sophomores Conor Gilligan and Alex Gould were the only two UE pitchers to not surrender a run, as the duo combined to allow just one hit in 2.1 scoreless frames.
In what was a back-and-forth affair, Missouri State (23-29, 9-12 MVC) scored the game's first run in the bottom of the first, when Patrick Drake drove in Joey Hawkins with a two-out single to center.
Evansville got the run back in the top half of the second, when sophomore Jonathan Ramon reached on a walk and later scored on a Showers ground out, but the Bears grabbed a 2-1 lead on a Trey Massenberg RBI single in their half of the frame.
In the top of the fourth, the Aces took their first lead of the game at 3-2, when Showers drove in his second run of the game with a single to left and McKibban was able to scamper home following a MSU error on a potential double-play ball.
Missouri State once again had an answer in the bottom of the fourth, after Massenberg reached on an infield single to start the frame and advanced to second on a ground out, before stealing third and coming home on a Hawkins ground out to retie the game at 3-3.
The game would remain tied until the top of the seventh, when Synek scored Kaczmarski with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right, putting UE in front, 4-3, but the Bears countered with two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning on RBI singles by Spencer Johnson and Blake Graham.
Trailing 5-4, UE's offense exploded for four runs in the top of the eighth to open up an 8-5 advantage. Senior Jake Mahon scored the first with a ground out up the middle and junior Jarod Perry, who singled earlier in the inning, was able to sprint home on a wild pitch out of the hand of MSU reliever Jon Harris (3-6). Synek then proceeded to pad Evansville's lead with a two-run triple to the gap in deep right center.
The Aces turned to their closer in Johns in the bottom of the eighth, but Missouri State once again had an answer, as it put up four more runs, with the eventual game-winning run scoring on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Matt Fultz.
McKibban led off the UE ninth with a single up the middle and freshman Max Foley, who pinch ran for McKibban, moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Perry, but Foley would be left stranded, as Harris closed out the 9-8 win for the Bears.
Despite the loss, Evansville will be the No. 1 seed for next week's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, Ind. The Aces will open the tournament against No. 8 seed Southern Illinois at 11:30 p.m. CST.