A night after being shut out by No. 8 seed Illinois State, the top-seeded Missouri State Bears returned to the Missouri Valley Conference Thursday, offense intact, to rough up the Southern Illinois Salukis 13-3 in a game ended by run-rule in the bottom of the eighth.
First-team All-MVC picks Jake Burger and Jeremy Eierman added to their home run totals, now sharing 40 among them, more than any other Division I teammates.
“Him and I are best friends,” Burger said. “We call ourselves the dirty left side. So, it’s always good having success back-and-forth with each other. He’s a great player and I respect him a lot. He’s going to do great things.”
After falling behind 3-0, Eierman launched his homer (19th of the season) into the left-field pen in the fourth to slim the lead to one.
“I think we had, I think, a lot of tension between our team getting shut out last night,” Eierman said. “Getting two runs on the board was big and then our offense opened up and started doing our thing.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Bears first-baseman Justin Paulsen tied the game with a base knock. Then, it was time for Burger’s bomb.
His was a grand slam and his 21st long ball of the season to match his 2016 total, a career-best.
Alex Jefferson kept things going later in the half-inning with an RBI double down the left-field line. Millas made it 10-3 with a sac-fly on the next at-bat.
Burger tallied his fifth RBI of the game on a double into left in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Jefferson ended the game with a two-RBI single.
“It was a great feeling,” Jefferson said. “ We really battled. It was good to help us on a good note. Hopefully, carry some momentum into tomorrow.”
MSU was in a similar situation in last year’s MVC tournament.
The Bears lost in game two of the tournament, 10-0, to Bradley and was sent into the loser’s side of the bracket and managed to scrape back to the championship game against Dallas Baptist.
“We have guys on the team who have been here before,” Jefferson said of playing from the losing bracket. “If you lose that first game it’s tough but we have experience and we’ve just got to grind.”