COLUMBIA, Ky. – Shawnee State baseball pounded out 17 hits and got a great start from Cody Strayer (SO/Worthington, Ohio) to keep its MSC Tournament Title hopes alive with an 8-1 win against sixth-seeded Bluefield on Monday evening. The Bears (33-25) will be one of just four teams remaining in the Mid-South Conference Tournament after the conclusion of Monday's games, while the Rams (33-17) are eliminated from the conference tournament.
Set to play in the first elimination game on Tuesday, the Bears will meet third-seeded St. Catharine. St. Catharine was a 4-3 winner against No. 5 Campbellsville in Monday's final elimination game. Shawnee's State's next elimination game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. EST (4 p.m. CST) start on Tuesday. The tournament's top two seeds, Georgetown and Cumberland will meet in the day's first game which is slated for a 2 p.m. EST (1 p.m. CST) start. The winner of that game is guaranteed a spot in the MSC Championship.
Shawnee State started the game off with a bang as Ryan Queener (SR/Mentor, Ohio) homered in the second at-bat of the game to put the Bears up 1-0. Just one inning later, the Bears got a two-out single from Dustin Bickmeyer (SR/O'Fallon, Mo.). Mitchell Lendenski (SO/Loveland, Ohio) came on to run for him and he would score as Brady Page (JR/Las Vegas, Nev.) ripped a double down the left field line and put the Bears up 2-0.
Bluefield got one of those runs back in the second inning as back-to-back singles put runners on the corners for the Rams. A sacrifice fly would push the first BC run of the game across. However, SSU starter Cody Strayer would get the next batter to pop up a bunt and got out of the inning with a grounder to short.
Strayer continued to shut down the Rams for the remainder of his time on the mound. He pitched a perfect third and scoreless fourth with Ryan Queener's outfield assist nailing a runner trying to score on a two-out single to keep the score at 2-1.
With the big play in the outfield, Queener led off the next inning with a double into left field. Daniel Katayama (SR/Sao Paulo-Guarulhos, Brazil) followed that up with a single into right field. Blake Maines (FR/Burlington, Ky.) kept the hits coming as he singled through the hole on the right side of the infield to make the score 3-1. Jake Cain (SO/Cold Spring, Ky.) then made it four straight hits for the Bears when he dropped a single into right field, giving Shawnee State a 4-1 lead after the top of the fifth.
With the help of a strong defensive effort behind him, Strayer began to take over as the game wore on. The Bears' right hander worked around Shawnee State's lone error of the game in the top of the fifth and pitched his second perfect inning of the game in the bottom of the sixth. He would also retire the only two batters he faced in the seventh inning before being lifted for reliever Ryan Valentine (JR/Springboro, Ohio). In total, Strayer retired eight of the final nine batters that he faced with that infield error being the lone batter to reach in his final 2.2 innings of work.
Shawnee State started another hit parade in the top of the seventh as it added on four runs on six hits. Maines started the inning with a triple and scored on a wild pitch during the next at-bat. With one out, Brady Hightchew (SO/Newport, Ky.) singled and came around to score on SSU's second triple of the inning off the bat of Dalton Tinsley (JR/Kokomo, Ind.). Tinsley scored on a sacrifice fly from Bickmeyer to make the score 7-1.
Page scored the Bears' fourth run of the inning as he singled back through the middle and advanced to second on a wild pitch. An RBI hit from Todd Queener (SR/Mentor, Ohio) pushed Shawnee State's lead to 8-1 after seven innings.
That support was more than enough for the Shawnee State pitching. Strayer picked up his fifth win of the season as he allowed just four hits over his 6.2 innings of work. Strayer allowed just the one run, while striking out four in the game. Valentine retired all four batters that he faced in the seventh and eighth innings. Nolan West (SO/Olivehurst, Calif.) then finished the game with a perfect ninth. In total, SSU's pitching retired 15 of the last 16 batters with the lone exception being an error.
Ryan Queener and Maines both finished the game with three hits. Todd Queener, Bickmeyer and Page each recorded multi-hit games. In total, each of the Bears' nine offensive starters recorded at least one hit in the game. Seven different players scored a run as Ryan Queener was the only SSU player to score twice. The Bears' seven RBI all came from different players.