Posted: Friday, 22 February 2013 8:14PM

Harris, Bears Cruise Past Alcorn State

Hattiesburg, Miss. -- Freshman Jonathan Harris turned in a strong Missouri State mound debut, while Koby Peebles and Spencer Johnson came through with key run-producing hits to help lift the Bears (3-1) to an 8-1 win over Alcorn State Friday afternoon at the Southern Miss Invitational. MSU kept the pressure on the Braves throughout the afternoon, scoring in five different innings, and Harris allowed just one unearned run on two hits over six innings to earn the victory.

Harris (1-0) held Alcorn (0-7) without a hit through the first four innings to allow his offense time to establish a comfortable lead, keeping the Braves off the scoreboard despite issuing five walks on the day. Alcorn plated its lone run of the game on a wild throw by Harris on a pickoff attempt in the third, but the right-hander avoided major damage by rolling a pair of double-play balls in the first and sixth innings to thwart AU rallies.

On the offensive side, Peebles produced the biggest hit of the day for the Bears in the first inning, driving in a pair of runs with a two-out single in the top of the first. Johnson followed suit in the fifth with a two-run double to turn double MSU's lead and effectively put the game out of reach.

In addition to big games from Peebles and Johnson at the plate, the Bears received a lift from Trey Massenberg, who reached base in each of his four trips to the dish. The junior outfielder scored three times, drawing three bases on balls to go along with a single and a stolen base to help the Bears record their best offensive effort of the new season.

After struggling to generate offense in each of their first three games of the season, the Bears wasted little time in jumping on top against Alcorn starter Terrence Stubbs (0-2). After a walk to Dylan Becker began the game, Travis McComack reached on a fielder's choice, then moved into scoring position when Keenen Maddox was plunked by a pitch. Stubbs recovered to strike out Luke Voit for the second out, but a wild pitch advanced both runners 90 feet, and Peebles promptly lined the next pitch down the right-field line to put MSU in front, 2-0.

The Bears kept the pressure on the Braves in the second, taking advantage of an error and a wild pitch to make it a three-run game. Massenberg drew a lead-off walk, stole second and moved to third when Alcorn shortstop Angel Rosa failed to cover the base on the throw from catcher Edgardo Salas. Stubbs then unleashed his second wild pitch to allow Massenberg to trot home for a 3-0 MSU lead.

It was Alcorn's turn to capitalize on a miscue in the bottom of the third, as Harris quickly retired the first two batters before walking Salas and Justin Barney to give the Braves new life. A miscommunication between Harris and Johnson led to an errant pickoff attempt that allowed Salas to score from second to make it a 3-1 contest. Harris quickly recovered, however, to strike out Josh Powell for the third out of the inning.

In the fifth, Johnson's clutch drive into the gap in left-center chased home McComack and Maddox after Stubbs nearly worked around a walk and a single. The Bears tacked on a run in the sixth and two more in the eighth, with Massenberg once again playing the role of catalyst. He led off the sixth with a single before moving to third on a failed pickoff attempt and scoring on Eric Cheray's grounder to push the MSU lead to 6-1, then walked and scored for a third time in the eighth. Becker drove in Cheray - who bunted for a hit -- with a sacrifice fly to complete the scoring for the Bears.

Sophomore Zach Merciez and freshman Sam Perez teamed up to finish what Harris started, combining for three scoreless innings of relief.

Voit (2-for-5) was the lone Bear to register a two-hit game, while McComack and Maddox each scored twice for MSU.

Christian Hickman (3-for-4) paced the Alcorn attack with a hit in each of his final three at-bats.

The Bears continue play in Hattiesburg Saturday with a 4 p.m. contest against host Southern Miss, before wrapping up the weekend with an 11 a.m. game Sunday against Eastern Illinois.

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