TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Murray State set a blistering pace out of the gates, plating four runs in the top of the first inning here Wednesday to cruise to a 6-1 victory over Missouri State in the second round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
After jumping on Bears’ starter Brandt Thompson with five hits in the opening frame, two for extra bases, the Racers (31-26) rode the arm of Cade Vernon to the day two upset of the No. 2 seeded Bears (31-22).
Vernon went 7 shutout innings, striking out a career-high eight and scattering three hits and a walk.
After the early-inning damage, Thompson did not return for the second. Bears’ reliever Reed Metz calmed the waters through the second, third and fourth innings in his longest outing of the season. Metz walked Murray State’s Dustin Mercer to lead off the fifth. Mercer would later score on a sacrifice fly by Riley Hawthorne off MSU reliever Trey Ziegenbein to make it a 5-0 game.
Missouri State put runners in scoring position in the home half of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings with doubles by Cody Kelly and Taeg Gollert, ahead of Cam Cratic’s hit by pitch in the seventh. But Vernon was up to the task each time, striking out the side in the fifth and sixth, and quickly working around Cratic’s threat in the seventh to keep the Bears off the board.
Brennan McCullough’s solo home run in the top of the ninth extended Murray State’s lead to 6-0. He paced the Racers with a 3-for-4 night with a pair of RBI.
Mason Greer’s pinch-hit RBI double in the bottom of the ninth broke up the shutout and brought Mason Hull around to score. The bottom of the Bears’ order would then load the bases to turn the lineup over and bring the potential tying run on deck. But Murray reliever Allen Roulette ended the game with his third strikeout in two innings to end MSU’s comeback hopes.
Gollert’s two hits led Missouri State, while Metz surrendered just one hit in three-plus innings of relief.
With the loss, the Bears will have to rally from the consolation side of the bracket. MSU faces No. 6 seeded UIC Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in an elimination game on ESPN+.