NORMAL — It was a replay Illinois State baseball coach Mark Kingston had no desire to witness.
Yet his Redbirds buckled under the weight of faulty clutch hitting and defense for the second straight game Saturday and dropped a 6-3 Missouri Valley Conference decision to Missouri State at Duffy Bass Field.
“We got guys on base again. We just didn’t get that big hit,” Kingston said. “We will. When we do I think things will start to go back our way. I believe the guys in our locker room will get it turned around.”
The Redbirds (27-15, 7-7 in the Valley) were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 baserunners after leaving 13 on in Friday’s 10-3 loss.
“We’re just not quite getting it done right now,” said ISU left fielder Tyler McNeely. “You’ve got to keep doing your best and competing against the pitcher. We’re doing that, but the balls are not falling our way.”
Missouri State starter Blake Barber and reliever Pierce Johnson (5-4) each worked 41/3 innings as the Bears improved to 27-17 and 8-5 in conference play.
“He’s started off and on and given us a power arm in relief,” Bears’ coach Keith Guttin said of Johnson. “He’s got weekend starter-type stuff, but he’s been real valuable in that role. The past three or four weeks he’s thrown really well.”
Luke Voit’s second home run of the weekend gave the Bears a 1-0 lead in the third inning. McNeely matched that with his team-leading 10th blast in the fourth.
ISU starter Dan Savas (3-4) gave up an infield single, a walk and a bunt single in the sixth before Brent Seifert drove home two with a double to right-center field.
The Redbirds pulled within 3-2 as Ryan Court scored on a Brock Stewart fielder’s choice.
Missouri State made ISU pay for mistakes in the seventh and eighth for crucial insurance runs.
Redbird catcher Mike Hollenbeck was charged with a passed ball on what would have been an inning-ending strikeout in the seventh. ISU reliever Justin Hauer then walked Aaron Conway and Kevin Medrano chased home both runners with a double to left-center.
An error by Redbird pitcher Kenny Long led to the Bears’ eighth inning run.
“You’ve got to do all the little things with all the talent being so equal among all the Valley teams,” said Kingston. “One mistake here and one mistake there can be the difference in the ballgame.”
Court singled home Kevin Tokarski with two outs in the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate. Missouri State closer Dan Kickham got McNeely to bounce into a force out on his first and only pitch.
The series concludes with a 1 p.m. game Sunday.
MISSOURI STATE 6, ILLINOIS STATE 3
Missouri State 001 002 210—6-8-0
Illinois State 000 101 001—3-6-1
Barber, Johnson (5, W, 5-4), Kickham (9, S, 10) and Marshall. Savas (L, 3-4), Hauer (7), Long (8) and Hollenbeck.
ILLINOIS STATE — HR — McNeely (solo in 4th). RBI — McNeely, Stewart, Court. Two hits — McNeely. Pitching — Savas (6 IP, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO), Hauer (1 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO), Long (2 IP, 1 R, O ER, 1 BB, 3 SO).
Records – Missouri State 27-17, 8-5; Illinois State 27-15, 7-7.