CARBONDALE — Missouri State battered SIU starter Michael Baird for six runs in the first four innings, then put the Saluki bullpen out of its misery with a nine-run ninth Saturday.
One day after taking advantage of six walks in the final two innings to rally for a 9-7 victory, the 16th-ranked Bears turned a save situation into a 19-9 blowout at Jones Stadium. Missouri State drew 10 walks, five from Baird, and pounded out 12 hits to take the weekend series.
"It's 6-2, and then we give up the three-spot out of the bullpen, and we come right back and make it 9-7," SIU coach Ken Henderson said. "Our position players never quit. They never quit battling all day, so, I'm proud of that, but, the difference between 0-2 and possibly being 2-0 in this series is not throwing strikes."
Missouri State (32-14, 13-0 Missouri Valley Conference) jumped on Baird in the second inning with a leadoff double. Baird walked Blake Graham and Jack Duffy to load the bases. Alex Jefferson got the Bears on the board with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Baird, a junior right-hander who had 16 walks in just over 68 innings entering the game, walked catcher Logan Geha to load the bases again, and handed the Bears a 2-0 lead when he pulled his 3-2 fastball to John Privitera outside. Missouri State put six runs, five earned, on Baird in four innings.
"The second inning, they hit that flare double down the line. Nothing you can do about it, just try to get the next guy," Baird said. "Obviously, it wasn't my day, and my next pitch wasn't always going in my favor. Where I'm at, it's still about my next pitch, and my next pitch is at Illinois State next weekend, so that's what I'm focusing on now."
SIU (23-25, 6-8) trailed 9-2 before climbing back into the game with a four-run fifth. Jake Hand drove in a run with a bases-loaded fielder's choice, and Nick Hutchins drove in another with a single to right-center field. Will Farmer's sacrifice fly made it 9-5, and the Salukis pulled within two off Ryan Sabo's double to left.
Missouri State, which captured its 17th straight Valley victory, scratched out a run in the eighth before dropping nine runs against three pitchers in the ninth. All-American third baseman Jake Burger struck out to lead off the inning, but reached base when the ball squirted away from Hutchins.
Anthony Shimkus then walked Jeremy Eierman. Graham doubled off the right field wall to push the lead to four. Jacob Williams replaced Shimkus and got the first out of the inning on a ground ball to Kopach, but the senior right-hander never got another one. He intentionally walked Jefferson to put the double play in order, then hit Logan Geha in the back to force in another run.
Williams walked Privitera, the Bears' No. 9 hitter, on four pitches to make it 13-7 before Bradley Harrison replaced him. The Bears scored their final six runs off three straight hits, a single to right, a double to right, and a three-run home run by Jake Burger to left.
Game 3 of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. today. After 17 walks in the first two games against the top team in the conference, Henderson left Saturday's game hoping for a different approach.
"So a leadoff guy gets on. Even if he scores, you still only give up the one run. You minimize it," Henderson said. "We walk the second guy, and now you're asking for disaster, and that's what happened."