Before the 2020 season started, longtime Missouri State head baseball coach Keith Guttin said the biggest thing the team can take away from arguably its worst season in program history last year was the experience the pitching staff gained from 2019.
That experience showed following Missouri State’s opening home series win against Maine, allowing a combined seven runs over three games this weekend.
“I’ve seen these guys’ improvements,” Guttin said. “They are better. They are more experienced. They are physically stronger. They have been in game situations.”
To open the season at home, Missouri State baseball fans were treated with a gem from Friday night starter Logan Wiley. The right-hander struck out six batters, limiting Maine to five hits over seven shutout innings.
Sophomore Dakota Kotowski’s three-run homer paced the Bears offense. Missouri State added single tallies in the second and fourth frames and used Wiley’s third quality start of the season to take the series-opener with a 6-2 win.
Wiley improves to 2-1 on the season and now has a 3.09 ERA through his first four starts for the Bears.
Game 2 was a completely different story.
Missouri State’s bats went silent as three Maine pitchers combined to hold the Bears in check on Saturday. The Black Bears evened the series with a 4-2 win.
It was Maine’s first win of the 2020 season.
The Bears on-again, off-again offense struggled to cash in on several scoring opportunities, going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
But Missouri State bounced back on Sunday thanks to the right arm of sophomore Forrest Barnes.
In his first start of the season, Barnes tossed a career-high seven innings and gave up just one earned run on two hits to help the Bears not only claim a 4-1 victory, but secure a two-to-one series win over Maine.
After struggling with runners in scoring position in Game 2, the Bears offense was more opportunistic in run-scoring situations.
Missouri State went 4-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Seniors Ben Whetstone, Jack Duffy, Logan Geha and sophomore Mason Hull produced RBI doubles each to account for Missouri State’s offense.
The Bears are now 8-7 on the young season. Missouri State returns to action on Tuesday at home against Oral Roberts. First pitch set for 3 p.m.