DALLAS – Missouri State muscled up for a season-high four home runs and rode a standout mound effort from Dylan Coleman to a 9-5 victory over DBU that secured at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship Thursday evening at Horner Ballpark.
Coleman (9-2) scattered six hits and struck out nine Patriots over 6 2/3 innings to lock up his league-leading ninth victory of the season. The junior right-hander became just the third pitcher in Missouri State history to record 300 career strikeouts, while also moving into a tie for fourth place on the Bears’ all-time wins list with the 23rd victory of his career.
Brooks Zimmerman homered twice, including a back-breaking two-out, two-run shot in the top of the ninth that turned a three-run MSU lead into a five-run margin. With the victory, the Bears (34-14, 17-2 MVC) claimed their second straight MVC title and their third regular-season championship in four seasons, becoming the first Valley club since Wichita State in 2010 to achieve the feat.
In order to register their eighth-straight MVC win, the Bears scored four times in the first four innings, then relied on sixth-inning long balls from Matt Brown and Zimmerman to stretch their advantage to 7-1. Drew Millas’s opposite-field solo shot in the top of the first opened the scoring, before a two-out base hit by John Privitera plated two more runs in the second.
Brown, who scored three runs as part of a 2-for-4 night, absorbed a Trevor Conn offering to start the fourth, and Logan Geha coaxed a one-out walk to put two runners aboard. A double steal set up Landan Ruff’s RBI grounder to third, giving Coleman and the Bears a 4-0 lead.
Coleman allowed a leadoff walk and a one-out single in the first, but righted the ship to retire 12 of the ensuing 13 DBU hitters. He recorded inning-ending strikeouts in four different innings and moved to within five punchouts of three-time All-American Nick Petree (306) in the No. 2 spot on MSU’s career list with his nine-strikeout performance.
DBU would break into the scoring column in the fifth, using the first of Luke Bandy’s two doubles and a two-out Devlin Grandberg single to slice the lead to 4-1. Coleman fanned Jimmy Glowenke to get out of the jam, stranding two Patriots and starting a string of four consecutive strikeouts.
The MSU offense responded promptly, as Jack Duffy’s leadoff triple to right preceded back-to-back home runs by Brown and Zimmerman that made it a six-run game.
Another Bandy double with one out in the seventh sparked a two-run Patriot surge, as two walks and a pair of two-out singles brought in two DBU runs. Jake Fromson extinguished the rally with a crucial strikeout of Tim Millard that left the bases loaded. A solo blast by Cody Funderburk in the eighth drew DBU to within 7-4, but Ben Whetstone’s third hit of the game to lead off the ninth and Zimmerman’s third homer in the Bears’ last two games gave MSU some breathing room.
Connor Sechler issued a pair of walks and permitted a two-out single to Millard that brought in the fifth DBU run in the ninth, but got Garrett Wolforth to bounce to second for the final out.
Jameson Hannah reached base in four of his five plate appearances, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, while Bandy went 2-for-4 with two runs scored to help pace the DBU offense. Conn (8-1) allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits over 5.0 innings in suffering his first mound setback of the season for the Patriots (35-16, 15-4 MVC).
The Bears and Patriots will meet in game two of the series Friday (May 18) at 6:30 p.m., then conclude the regular season with a 2 p.m. contest Saturday.