SPRINGFIELD, MO – Missouri overcame a late Missouri State rally to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Bears Wednesday evening at Hammons Field, as Andreas Plackis’s sacrifice fly in the top of the 11th inning drove home the game winner. The setback overshadowed a strong relief performance by Grant Gordon, who held the Tigers scoreless for six innings to give MSU time to erase a two-run deficit and force extra frames for the first time in 2012.
Gordon (4-3), who retired the first 13 batters he faced after entering the game in the fifth inning, worked a season-high 6 1/3 innings in all, allowing just two hits while striking out five and walking three.
It was one of those walks that started MU’s game-clinching rally, however, as Eric Garcia reached base with one out in the 11th, before Scott Sommerfeld lined a base hit through the right side to put runners on the corners. Plackis then lifted a fly ball to right-center, giving Garcia more than enough time to trot home with the go-ahead run.
After drawing even with a pair of eighth-inning runs, the Bears (29-13) had all the momentum and a chance to win it in the home half of the ninth when Eric Cheray tripled down the left-field line with one out. But MU reliever Dusty Ross fanned Spiker Helms for the second out, then retired Brent Seifert on a long fly to center after issuing an intentional pass to Kevin Medrano.
Missouri also saw a prime opportunity to reclaim the lead go by the wayside, as the Tigers used a pair of walks and a Brannon Champagne double—his third hit of the game—to load the bases with just one out in the top of the 10th. But Gordon got Dane Opel to send a comebacker to the mound, and the Bears’ junior hurler fired home to initiate a rally-killing 1-2-3 double play.
Missouri freshman right-hander John Miles (3-1) turned out the lights on the Bears’ offense, working two hitless innings to give the Tigers (22-17) a chance to earn the victory.
The dramatic ending followed a strong effort from the Tigers’ first three pitchers of the evening, as Jeff Emens, Ryan Yuengel and Jake Walsh combined to limit the Bears to five hits over the first six innings. The visitors appeared poised to grab the early lead top of the third after Dillon Everett doubled, Conner Mach reached on a hit by pitch and Champagne singled to load the bases with one out. But MSU starter Jake Powers found a way out of the jam, coaxing a tailor-made 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Ben Turner to end the inning with the game still scoreless.
The Bears quickly capitalized on the momentum-turning play, as Trey Massenberg started the bottom half of the third by launching a 1-0 Emens offering over the wall in right field for a 1-0 Missouri State lead.
The Tigers seized control of the contest in the fifth, however, touching up Powers for four consecutive hits to begin the inning. Plackis played a significant role in that rally as well, sending a hot shot to third that glanced off the glove of Siefert, and Everett recorded his second-straight hit before Mach knotted the score with a double down the left-field line. Champagne followed with a run-scoring single into shallow right-center, and Turner capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to right that handed the visitors a 3-1 advantage.
Playing in front of a boisterous gathering of 2,540—the Bears’ largest home crowd since their April 17, 2007, meeting with Missouri—Missouri State rallied from 3-1 eighth-inning deficit with a little help from the Tiger defense. After a Medrano infield single started the Bears’ key inning, Seifert drove a double off the right-center field wall to plate MSU’s second run of the game, then moved over to third when Garcia’s throw was wide of the plate. That miscue would prove critical, as Brock Chaffin bounced out to the right side to give Seifert time to cross the plate with the tying run.
Champagne led the Tigers’ 10-hit attack by going 3-for-5 with an RBI, while Everett chipped in with two hits, a walk and a run scored.
Massenberg and Cheray powered the MSU offense with two hits apiece, including two of the Bears’ three extra-base hits on the night.
The Bears are back in action Friday (April 27) evening when they kick off a pivotal Missouri Valley Conference series against Southern Illinois with a 6:30 p.m. contest.