Bears walk-off DBU in 10th for MVC championship

DALLAS –   John Privitera’s one-out single in the bottom of the 10th plated the winning run for Missouri State in a 7-6 comeback victory over DBU that wrapped up the Bears’ fourth Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Championship Sunday at Horner Ballpark.

After overcoming a pair of early deficits in the Valley’s deciding contest, the Bears (39-15) saved their biggest rallies for the final two frames, getting a two-run homer from Jeremy Eierman in the ninth inning to pull even at 6-6, before a Jack Duffy single and a four-pitch walk to Hunter Steinmetz sparked the game’s deciding surge in the 10th. Following a failed sacrifice that resulted in the first out, Privitera completed the comeback by stroking a 3-2 pitch from MacGregor Hines (5-3) into right-center, allowing Duffy to race home with the title-clinching run.

Connor Sechler (6-1) picked up the victory with 5.0 innings of relief, combining with Jake Lochner to hold the Patriots to three runs (two earned) over the game’s final nine innings. Privitera went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and three walks, joining tournament MVP Ben Whetstone, pitcher Dylan Coleman and outfielder Brooks Zimmerman on the MVC’s all-tournament team.

The victory gave the Bears a sweep of the Valley’s regular-season and tournament titles for the second time in four seasons, in addition to securing the program’s 12th NCAA Division I Regional berth with the league’s automatic postseason bid.

It would take the Bears’ third consecutive come-from-behind effort in the tournament—and their 20th comeback win of the season—to get the job done. After a two-out, three-run homer by Tim Millard staked the Patriots (40-19) to a 3-0 first-inning lead, the Bears battled their way back with a three-run third inning, sparked by back-to-back base hits from Landan Ruff and Privitera. Drew Millas put the Bears into the scoring column with an RBI single, before Whetstone delivered his third run-producing extra-base hit of the tournament, knotting the score at 3-3 with a double into the right-center field gap.

DBU responded in the fourth, capitalizing on a leadoff walk to Kody Funderburk and an error on Hill Alexander’s ground ball to push home an unearned run. A double steal put two Patriots in scoring position with one out, and Devlin Granberg’s liner to left brought home the go-ahead run, despite a spectacular diving grab in left by Steinmetz.

Patriots reliever Jarod Bayless kept the Bears at bay for 3.1 innings, fanning five in preserving the 4-3 advantage. But Matt Brown was hit by a pitch to start the sixth, and Steinmetz’s two-out single to right kept the rally going for MSU. Ruff’s squeeze attempt was popped up in between third base and the pitcher’s mound, but Bayless could not handle it, allowing Brown to cross the plate with the equalizing tally.

Jameson Hannah’s two-out, two-run triple in the top of the eighth appeared to provide the hosts with a decisive two-run margin. But Sechler avoided further damage with an inning-ending strikeout, and Privitera drew a free pass to set up Eierman’s towering blast—his 10th round-tripper of the season—to left-center that negated the DBU rally.

Sechler hit Blayne Jones to start the 10th, but struck out Granberg and induced back-to-back fly balls to strand a pair of DBU baserunners ahead of Privitera’s deciding hit. In all, the Bears’ freshman right-hander struck out a career-high seven hitters, walked three and permitted just the two eighth-inning runs on a total of five hits, after Lochner allowed just one unearned run on three hits in his 4.0 innings.

With their MVC Championship run in Dallas complete, the Bears will turn their focus toward a potential postseason berth. The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee will announce its first-round regional pairings and site assignments at 11 a.m. (CDT) live on ESPNU. Regional host sites will be revealed by the NCAA on its website and various social media platforms Sunday evening.