MSU Bears Claim See-Saw Battle With Texas Southern

BEAUMONT, Texas – Missouri State overcame an early two-run deficit to Texas Southern, then held off a ninth-inning charge to conclude their stay at the Cardinal Classic with a 6-5 victory over the Tigers Sunday morning at Vincent-Beck Stadium .

Ben Whetstone [missouristatebears.com] turned in a career-best four hits, including his first home run as a Bear, and John Privitera [missouristatebears.com] delivered two key run-producing hits to lead MSU to its third win in four 2018 contests. Privitera's two-run triple in the third inning handed the Bears their first lead of the day, before his two-out line-drive single to right plated the go-ahead run once again in the sixth after the Tigers erased a two-run deficit of their own.

Logan Wiley [missouristatebears.com] (1-0) delivered 3 2/3 innings of effective relief to earn his first win as a Bear, while freshman Matt Russell [missouristatebears.com] recorded the final out for his first save after the Tigers cut the MSU lead in half and put the tying run in scoring position.

Texas Southern (0-2) drew first blood in its second game of the weekend against the Bears, using back-to-back singles—and a pair of stolen bases—from Kamren Dukes and Keanu Van Kuren to set up a two-run rally in the top of the first. After Dukes scored on Van Kuren's base hit to right, Olajide Oloruntimilehen doubled home the second Tigers run of the inning.

MSU, which also overcame an early deficit against the Tigers in its 8-2 season-opening victory Friday, climbed out of the 2-0 hole thanks in large part to the efforts of Whetstone and Privitera. Leading off the second, Whetstone unloaded on a Darius Boykins offering for towering solo blast to right that cut the Tigers' lead in half. 

It would be the bottom portion of the MSU lineup that spearheaded a three-run rally the following inning, as Logan Geha [missouristatebears.com] was hit by a pitch and Sam Faith [missouristatebears.com] coaxed a four-pitch walk to start the threat. Privitera lined a 1-2 pitch over the head of Dukes in center to chase home both baserunners for a 3-2 Bears lead. Hunter Steinmetz [missouristatebears.com]'s sacrifice fly to center allowed Privitera to score from third and stretch the margin to two runs.

Bears starter Tyler McAlister [missouristatebears.com] would hold the cushion until the fifth, when a leadoff walk to Ryan Diaz and Christian Sanchez's base hit—the first of a trio of two-out, RBI singles by TSU—combined to make it a 4-3 game. The Tigers would get to Wiley with another clutch single to tie the game in the sixth, as Jose Camacho started the inning with an infield hit and came around just ahead of Steinmetz's throw home on a Ricky Urbano single.

But the Bears responded promptly, using Jordan Fitzpatrick [missouristatebears.com]'s first career hit to jump start their offense in the home half of the sixth. Geha's sacrifice bunt moved pinch runner Landan Ruff[missouristatebears.com] into scoring position, before Privitera drove a single through the right side to bring Ruff home with the go-ahead tally. MSU manufactured a critical insurance run in the eighth after Geha drew the third hit by pitch of the day for the Bears and Matt Brown [missouristatebears.com] moved him to second with a successful two-strike sac bunt. After a Steinmetz grounder advanced Geha to third, a wild pitch allowed the sophomore catcher to cross the plate for a 6-4 Bears lead.

TSU fought back in the ninth, getting a one-out single by Urbano and a two-out, run-scoring double by Dukes to keep their hopes alive. 

Making just his second mound appearance as a Bear, Russell coolly worked the count to 0-2 on Van Kuren, then induced a chopper to short that Jeremy Eierman [missouristatebears.com] scooped and fired to first just ahead of the Tiger runner for the final out.

Drew Millas [missouristatebears.com] complemented the multi-hit outings of Whetstone and Privitera with a 2-for-4 day of his own, giving the trio eight of the Bears' 10 total hits. McAlister worked a career-best 5.0 innings, allowing three runs on six hits, while Wiley scattered four hits and struck out three in his victorious performance.

Dukes paced the Tigers with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, while Urbano finished with two hits in three at-bats. Chris Suarez (0-1) suffered the loss for TSU, following 2.1 shutout innings of relief from Robert Loza.

Up next, the Bears will travel to Conway, Ark., for a three-game non-conference series against Central Arkansas, beginning with a 3 p.m. contest Friday (Feb. 23) at Bear Stadium.

Courtesy of Missouri State Athletics

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