May 24, 2006
By Jeff Honza
WICHITA, Kan. - Clay Coulter's three-run homer in the second inning proved to be the difference in second-seeded Missouri State University's (31-20) 7-5 win over fifth-seeded Southern Illinois (33-24) earlier today in the first round of the ConAgra Foods Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
With two outs and nobody on in the second, SIU starting right-hander Jordan Powell hit Matt Lawson with a pitch and walked Nolan Keane to give the Bears runners at first and second. Coulter then stepped in and slugged a three-run homer to left to give MSU a 5-0 cushion.
The red-hot Bears, who picked up their eighth-straight win, badgered Powell from the start.
Coulter's homer came after Powell had given up hits to four of the first five MSU hitters in a two-run first.
"It was another slow start and they did a good job of getting the bat on the ball," said Saluki head coach Dan Callahan. "As it turned out, what happened in the second inning really hurt us."
SIU went hitless in its first 2.1 innings against MSU starting right-hander Scott Carroll, but started to get back in the game in the third inning.
Hunter Harrigan doubled to left with one away in the third, went to second on a passed ball and touched home on a wild pitch to get the Salukis on the board.
MSU answered with two more runs after loading the bases during its turn in the fourth.
Freshman Cody Adams relieved Powell and forced Brayden Drake to hit into a fielder's choice before back-to-back two-out singles by Jacob Hilgendorf and Tanner Mattson helped push the Bears' lead to 7-2.
SIU countered with its biggest offensive threat after loading the bases with no outs in the fifth.
Chris McCulloch led things off with a single and was safe at second when Carroll's throw skipped by second base on Kevin Koski's fielder's choice. Scott Elmendorf then followed with a bunt single to put Dawgs at every base.
Gerrard's hit to right knocked in both McCulloch and Koski, before Elmendorf scored on a fielder's choice to cut the lead to 7-5.
Elmendorf's run was the last of the game by either team as a duel between the bullpens took over the rest of the way.
SIU had a runner on first after a leadoff single in the sixth, but MSU reliever Jacob Bunten got Harrigan to line into a double play. Bunten went on to retire six of seven Saluki hitters, before the Bears went to their closer, Chris Krawczyk, in the eighth.
Krawczyk was lights out, as he retired five-straight en route to his ninth save of the season.
While Bunten and Krawczyk got the job done for the MSU pen, Adams did the same for SIU.
Adams only allowed two hits in 4.2 scoreless innings. He also struck out two and retired the last 10 MSU hitters he faced.
"Cody was outstanding out there. He couldn't have done a better job for us," said Callahan.
Offensively, SIU had nine hits on the day, with first-team all-conference outfielder Gerrard leading the way with two hits. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI.
MSU was led by Rafferty, who finished at 3-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI. Coulter followed with two hits, two runs and three RBI.
SIU falls to the loser's bracket and will face top-seed and MVC regular-season champion Evansville in an elimination game tomorrow at 11 a.m., CST. Left-hander Tyler Norrick will start on the mound for the Dawgs.