Murray State cashes in vs. Southeast Missouri State baseball team

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Murray State baseball team wasted myriad prime scoring opportunities in dropping Friday's opener of a key three-game Ohio Valley Conference series.

MSU was able to capitalize much better on its chances Saturday, which helped the Thoroughbreds beat host Southeast Missouri State 7-2.

The squads will play the rubber contest at 1 p.m. today at Capaha Field.

"I was real proud of how the guys battled," MSU coach Rob McDonald said. "We played well. We got good pitching and timely hitting."

Southeast (18-33, 9-14) moved into a tie with Tennessee Tech for seventh place in the 10-team OVC by splitting the first two legs of the series.

The squads are tied for sixth for OVC tournament purposes because fifth-place SIU Edwardsville is not eligible for the event this season during its final year of the Division I reclassification process.

The top six finishers qualify for the tournament. Southeast owns the tiebreaker with Tech based on winning the earlier series between the squads.

MSU (22-29, 8-15) remained in ninth place, but the Thoroughbreds trail Southeast and Tech by just one game in the battle for the sixth and final tournament berth, which makes today's matchup so crucial. All three teams have four OVC games left.

"We've got to win," Southeast All-American senior third baseman Trenton Moses said about today's contest.

The Thoroughbreds were kicking themselves after Friday's 7-1 loss that saw them outhit Southeast 9-8 but strand 16 runners compared to only six for the Redhawks. MSU left the bases loaded three times.

MSU turned the tables Saturday by winning despite being outhit 7-5. The Thoroughbreds stranded only three runners compared to eight for Southeast.

"You get multiple chances and you're going to come through," Southeast senior second baseman Taylor Heon said. "Today they did and we didn't."

Walks and hit batters have plagued Southeast's pitching staff all season, but the Redhawks have improved considerably in those areas during recent weeks.

Southeast got away with walking eight and hitting three batters Friday. The Redhawks walked just three while hitting two batters Saturday, but MSU made them pay.

The Thoroughbreds broke a scoreless tie with two runs despite not having a hit in the third inning.

A walk, a hit batter and Southeast failing to record an out on a sacrifice that went as a fielder's choice proved crucial.

"You can't have a team score two runs without getting a hit," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said.

The Redhawks used some good fortune to forge a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning.

Redshirt freshman center fielder Andy Lennington led off with a single, and freshman DH Cody Spanberger delivered a one-out single.

Heon's two-out line drive to right field was charged by MSU's Brandon Eggenschwiler, who probably would have had a solid chance to throw out Lennington at the plate.

But the ball took a bad hop and bounced way over Eggenschwiler's head, which allowed Heon to reach third with a two-RBI triple.

"But as soon as we tie it, they come right back and take the lead," Hogan said.

MSU took control via a five-run fifth inning. All the runs scored with two outs.

Southeast junior college transfer left-hander Zack Smith again was burned by the control lapses that the Redhawks had gotten away with Friday.

A double, a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Smith looked like he might wriggle out of the jam when the runners had to hold on a fly ball to short center field.

But Eggenschwiler came through with a two-RBI double that broke the tie and marked the end of the day for Smith.

Noah Zipko greeted true freshman left-hander Will Spitzfaden with a three-run homer that rocketed off the scoreboard beyond the left-field fence to make it 7-2.

It was the first collegiate home run for Zipko, a junior college transfer in his rookie season at MSU.

"They took advantage of some opportunities and we really didn't," Moses said. "That was the difference in the game."

Southeast's offense was held in check by Bryan Babin and Will Handlin.

Babin (5-4) allowed six hits and two runs over the first six innings. The senior left-hander struck out one and walked two.

"He kept us off balance," Heon said.

Handlin notched his fourth save of the season. The junior gave up one hit over the final three innings. He struck out one and walked two.

"They just completely shut our offense down today," said Hogan, whose squad did not commit an error for the fifth straight game. "Up and down the lineup we looked a little flat. We just didn't get it done. You have to tip your hat to their pitchers."

Smith (2-6) was charged with six runs on four hits over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out one, walked two and hit two.

"They only had five hits and get seven runs," Hogan said. "We've seen that kind of thing a lot this year."

Spitzfaden continued his solid late-season work despite allowing the homer to the first batter he faced. That's all he gave up in 3 1/3 innings. He struck out four.

"He's thrown well for us," Hogan said.

Juco transfer Michael Patman fired a hitless ninth inning.

Heon led Southeast with two hits.

Moses had a single to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. He has reached base safely in a school-record 71 straight contests. Neither the OVC nor NCAA keeps a record for that category.

Juco transfer Dylan Lynn (4-0, 5.07 ERA) will start on mound for Southeast today.

MSU will go with sophomore Cameron Finch (4-3, 5.46) as its starting pitcher today.

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