SPRINGFIELD, MO – After watching a pair of late leads slip away, the Missouri State Bears scored three times in the top of the 13th inning to pull out a hard-fought 11-8 victory over Bradley Thursday afternoon to keep their bid for a Missouri Valley Conference title alive. Luke Voit turned in a career day at the plate with a 5-for-7 performance, including a key two-run single in the decisive rally, to lead the Bears’ 22-hit attack at the State Farm MVC Baseball Championship at Hammons Field.
With the victory, the Bears move on to play No. 6 Southern Illinois Thursday evening, following the conclusion of the Creighton-Illinois State contest, slated for a 5:25 p.m. first pitch.
After Dylan Becker’’s sacrifice fly to center plated the go-ahead run, Voit’s line-drive single through the left side of the Bradley infield chased home Brent Seifert and Spiker Helms to hand the Bears a three-run lead.
Bradley, which rallied from deficits of three runs in the ninth and two runs in the 12th, couldn’t muster a third comeback, as Grant Gordon (6-3) closed out the roller-coaster ride of a game that featured four ties and five lead changes and required nearly four hours to complete.
In addition to his career-best five hits, Voit matched another personal high with five runs batted in, while Derek Mattea went 4-for-7 to establish a career high of his own. Seifert and Kevin Medrano each went 3-for-6 to help the Bears register their highest single-game hit total since May 2008.
The win for Missouri State (39-19) came on the heels of two dramatic rallies by the Braves (27-27-1), who got a two-out, game-tying three-run homer from Jason Leblebijian in the ninth, then erased a two-run deficit in the 12th after Voit clubbed a two-run homer in the top half of the frame.
The Bears benefitted from another strong start from junior right-hander Pierce Johnson to take a 5-2 lead into the seventh inning. Johnson struck out 12 Braves on the day, allowing three runs (two earned) on nine hits over eight innings.
For the third straight day in the tournament, the Bears jumped out to an early lead , this time taking advantage of a lead-off walk to Keenen Maddox and a Brock Chaffin sacrifice fly in the second to grab a 1-0 cushion.
Bradley responded in the third, using three consecutive one-out hits against Johnson to draw even with the Bears. David Compitello and Chris Godinez got things started with back-to-back singles, before Mike Tauchman tied the game with a run-scoring double to deep left field. Johnson came up with two key strikeouts to stand a pair of runners in scoring position, but the Braves scratched out a run in the fourth on Jerrod Eigsti’s infield single to pull ahead, 2-1.
The Bears continued to generate scoring chances, putting runners on base in each of the final eight innings. BU starter Tory Doerr managed to avoid any further damage by rolling double-play balls in three straight innings, until a four-run sixth inning handed MSU a 5-2 advantage. Run-scoring hits by Siefert and Voit put the Bears on top, before Chaffin’s mammoth two-run blast landed on the roof of the Bill Rowe Indoor Training Center beyond the wall in right-center. The Bears led 6-3 in the ninth when Leblebijian hammered a 3-2 pitch from Gordon onto the berm in left to knot the score. Gordon would work out of trouble the following inning after a leadoff error gave the Braves a runner in scoring position with nobody out. With runners
at the corners, Medrano teamed up with shortstop Eric Cheray on an inning-ending double play that kept the Bears’ in the game.
MSU looked to have the game in control once again in the 12th when Voit belted his sixth home run of the season to put the Bears in front, 8-6. But once again, BU bounced back, getting RBI singles from Greg Partyka and Rob Elliott in the bottom of the inning to pull even.
Cheray and Helms started the Bears’ key rally by drawing back-to-back walks against Danny Gifford, before Medrano’s 28th career sacrifice bunt moved both into scoring position. An intentional walk to Seifert loaded the bases, and Becker skied a 3-1 offering to center to bring Cheray in with the go-ahead run. Voit then followed with his fifth hit to drive in Seifert and Helms, matching his five-RBI day vs. Central Arkansas on March 23, 2010, in the process.