Seventh-inning rally lifts Bears past SEMO

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –  After watching a pair of two-run leads dissipate, Missouri State broke open a tie game with a five-run, seventh-inning rally to notch a 10-5 victory over Southeast Missouri State Tuesday afternoon at Hammons Field. MSU drew 14 walks from a total of nine SEMO hurlers to open its five-game home stand in style and improve to 6-0 on the year following a loss.

The Bears (12-6) took advantage of four straight free passes from SEMO pitching to start their key inning, including back-to-back bases-loaded walks to Jordan Fitzpatrick and John Privitera to force home the first two runs of the rally. Jeremy Eierman delivered a run-scoring single to chase home Ryan Skalnik, and Drew Millas followed suit with an RBI single of his own to make it a four-run cushion. Ben Whetstone capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to center that plated Eierman with the 10th MSU run of the contest.

Sophomore reliever Nate Witherspoon (1-0) shut the Redhawks down over the final 3.0 innings, allowing just two hits and a walk in logging his first victory of the season. The left-hander cut down the potential go-ahead run in the top of the seventh, nailing Chase Urhahn at the plate on a two-out double steal attempt.

MSU’s late surge came after the two clubs traded rallies over the first six innings, as SEMO twice bounced back from two-run innings by the Bears before taking a 5-4 lead on Justin Dirden’s leadoff homer in the sixth. The Bears answered in the home half, using a one-out walk to Privitera, a two-out double steal and an Ashton Holyfield wild pitch to push the tying run across the plate.

Eierman kept the game-tying rally alive with a two-out infield single, extending his career-best hit streak to 11 straight games. The junior shortstop finished the day 2-for-4, while Hunter Steinmetz came through with a pair of hits and two walks to drive home two runs and score two more for the Bears.

The Bears opened the scoring with a two-run second inning, as doubles by Whetstone and Jack Duffy sparked the MSU offense against SEMO right-hander Logan Winder. Steinmetz put the home club on top with a scorching two-run double off the wall in right, but Winder avoided further damage by striking out the side for the second straight inning to keep it a 2-0 game.

SEMO responded in the third, getting an RBI single from Chase Urhahn and a sacrifice squeeze by Peyton Faulkner to even the score against MSU starter Austin Knight. MSU used five walks in the home half of the fourth to reclaim a two-run advantage without the benefit of a hit. Landan Ruff‘s sac fly to left gave the Bears the lead again, before Millas coaxed a two-out walk with the bases full to make it a 4-2 contest.

But the Redhawks (7-15) bounced back once more, riding a two-out, two-run double by Trevor Ezell to knot things up in the fifth, before Dirden led off the following frame with a long home run to right-center to give the visitors their lone lead of the game.

Dirden led the SEMO attack with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, while Alex Nielsen went 2-for-3 and Urhahn recorded two hits as well. Matthew Wade (0-2) sustained the defeat after allowing two runs on two walks in his one-third of an inning.

Up next, the Bears will host Murray State in another 3 p.m. non-conference tilt Wednesday (March 21) at Hammons Field.