Bears bats fall silent in late-night MVC Tournament loss

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois State rode a combined three-hit shutout by freshman starter Brady Huffman and reliever Jack Landwehr to hand Missouri State a 1-0 setback in opening-round action at the MVC Baseball Championship at Hammons Field Thursday morning.

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With the start of the game delayed until 11:03 p.m. Wednesday evening after the completion of the day’s first three contests, Huffman limited the Bears to just three hits while striking out six Bears over 6.2 innings in Illinois State’s second-straight victory over MSU (37-16).

With the loss, the top-seeded Bears will face No. 4 Southern Illinois in a 12:30 p.m. elimination game Thursday afternoon. The Redbirds move on to a winner’s bracket semifinal matchup against Wichita State at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

After Huffman (4-5) and MSU starting pitcher Doug Still combined to post five shutout innings to start the evening, the Redbirds used a two-out rally in the sixth to plate the lone run of the contest. Still (7-2) struck out Ryan Hutchinson for the second out in the inning, but Owen Miller’s base hit gave ISU life. Derek Parola’s double into the right-field corner chased Miller home from first, giving Huffman and Landwehr all the run support they would need to complete the first shutout of the Bears since May 2014.

MSU’s biggest threat to the ISU lead came in the seventh, when back-to-back two-out walks to Alex Jefferson and Drew Millas and a bunt single from John Privitera loaded the bases. But Landweher struck out Hunter Steinmetz on three pitches to squash the rally, then retired the next five MSU hitters before Jefferson reached on a two-out walk in the ninth en route to wrapping up his second save of the season.

Still and reliever Jake Fromson limited the Redbirds (14-38) to just six hits while striking out nine batters, but the Bears’ three-hit offensive output marked their lowest single-game total since an April 16, 2016 showing at Wichita State.