Illinois State improved to 8-1 in MVC play after a 9-7 come-from-behind victory over Southern Illinois, as the Redbirds earned a Valley sweep for the second consecutive weekend. Wichita State avoided the three-game sweep by Indiana State, taking the final gaem of the series, 5-2. Creighton took the series over Bradley with a convincing 12-3 win over Bradley.
In the Valley's only non-conference matchup of the day, Evansville locked up the three-game sweep over visiting Arkansas State, rallying past the Red Wolves, 9-5.
ILLINOIS STATE 9, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 7
ILS (18-15, 8-1 MVC); SIU (16-20, 5-7 MVC)
NORMAL, Ill. - They did it again. Illinois State scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to hand Southern Illinois another late-inning loss, 9-7, at Duffy Bass Field Sunday afternoon, while earning its second consecutive Missouri Valley Conference series sweep.
Illinois State (18-15, 8-1 MVC) used walk-off hits to win each of the first two games of the series and scored its go-ahead runs in the team's last at-bat Sunday - this time in the bottom of the eighth inning. The win marks Illinois State's sixth straight in Valley play, all against Creighton and Southern Illinois - teams that swept the Redbirds last season.
The Redbirds entered the bottom of the eighth trailing the Salukis (16-20, 5-7 MVC), 7-5, but pushed across four runs with two outs to take the lead. Jake Thornton split up a pair of Illinois State strikeouts and started the rally with a single up the middle. Ryan Court singled to move Thornton to third and Ty Wiesemeyer's pinch-hit double down the left field line cut the deficit to a single run. Kevin Tokarski delivered a two-run double in the next at-bat to give Illinois State an 8-7 lead and then scored the ninth run for the Redbirds after an error by the Saluki shortstop.
The double by Tokarski was his second of the day and part of a 4-for-5 performance by the Downers Grove, Ill., native. Tokarski, who also scored and drove in three runs, has 20 doubles on the season to tie for third all-time on the Illinois State single season list. Matt Mirabal was 3-for-5 for Illinois State with a run scored and an RBI, and Redbird outfielders Thornton (2) and Chad Hinshaw (2) both had multiple hits. Illinois State senior designated hitter Anthony Ruffolo drove in three runs Sunday to complete a six-RBI series.
Southern Illinois scored all seven runs in the first four innings off Illinois State pitchers Ryan Camp and Cam Verbeke. Tyler Bullock hit a two-run home run with two outs in the first inning, his third home run of the series and eighth of the season. The Salukis led 6-0 after two and a half innings but Ruffolo tripled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, part of a four run inning for ISU.
Ryan Copeland pitched Illinois State's first scoreless frame in the top of the fifth inning and limited Southern Illinois to just one hit over three total innings before the Redbirds turned the ball over to Kenny Long. Tokarksi doubled and scored a run in the seventh to pull the Redbirds within two and Long retired all three batters he faced in the bottom half to set up the deciding eighth. Long (4-2) worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth to close out the win, his third in three games.
Michael Stalter and Brian Bajer each had two hits for the Salukis, who were out-hit 15-8 in the contest. Chris Murphy and Bullock both drove in a pair of runs for SIU. Saluki reliever Kellen Candau (2-2) was tagged with the loss.
Illinois State faces a pair of Big Ten opponents on the road during the mid-week before hosting St. Xavier for a doubleheader during the Redbirds' conference bye week at Duffy Bass Field Sunday (April 25). The Redbirds travel to Illinois for a 6:05 p.m. game Tuesday and visit Northwestern at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
WICHITA STATE 5, INDIANA STATE 2
WSU (22-13, 8-4 MVC); INS (23-10, 5-4 MVC)
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Josh Smith allowed just two hits and one run over 7.2 innings to lead the Shockers to a 5-2 victory over Indiana State in game three of the series.
Smith improved to 4-2 on the year. Cody Lassley and Tyler Grimes each had two hits for the Shockers while Grimes and Chris O'Brien each drove in a run.
The Sycamores used a two-out rally to score their first run of the game. In the third inning, Ben Ferrell walked and scored on a double by Ryan Strausborger to put INS up 1-0.
The Shockers answered with a run in the fourth. Travis Bennett singled up the middle with one out and advanced to second on a single to centerfield by Cody Lassley. With two outs, Chris O'Brien singled up the middle to drive in Bennett and tie the score at one.
The pitchers duel continued until the seventh when the Shockers got to starter Jason Van Skike. Cody Lassley led off the inning with a bunt single and advanced to second on a groundout by Chris O'Brien. Nate Goro walked and with two outs Tyler Grimes singled off Van Skike's leg to score Lassley and move Goro to third. Goro ended up scoring on a wild pitch to put the Shocks up 3-1.
WSU tacked on two more in the ninth after the Sycamore first baseman dropped a ball that would have been the third out. The Sycamores added an unearned run of their own in the bottom of the ninth to make the final score 5-2.
The Shockers are next in action on Tue., April 20 when they host Kansas State. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
CREIGHTON 12, BRADLEY 3
CU (16-13, 5-7 MVC); BU (11-19, 4-8 MVC)
PEORIA, Ill. - Creighton used a big first inning and Ty Blach's left arm to clinch a series victory over Bradley.
The Bluejays (16-13, 5-7 MVC) scored five runs in the first, and Blach went eight strong innings for his first collegiate win, in a 12-3 romp over Bradley (11-19, 4-8 MVC), Sunday afternoon at O'Brien Field.
Elliot Soto, Scott Thornburg and Alex Staehely all had two hits and two RBI with Thornburg blasting a home run. Trever Adams also had three RBI for the Jays.
Blach (1-1) struck out six in eight innings, and was perfect through the first four innings, facing just one over the minimum through five innings.
Brad Altbach (1-2) took the loss, allowing six runs, five earned in just two innings of work.
The five runs in the first were all CU would need, as an error and two walks by Bradley loaded the bases. Adams immediately emptied them with a double to the right-center gap for a 3-0 CU lead. Thornburg followed with his third home run of the season on the 10th pitch of his at-bat for the fourth and fifth Creighton runs.
The Bluejays continued the rout with single runs in the next four innings. T.J. Roemmich posted a two-out, RBI single in the second and Zane Hinkel's groundout in the third put the Jays up 7-0.
Soto posted the eighth CU run, as he scored on his triple after shortstop Jason Leblebijian threw wildly into the Bradley dugout. Staehely accounted for the ninth Bluejay run as his two-out single in the fifth made it a 9-0 game.
Bradley finally got to Blach in the sixth, as a Kyle Segar and Leblebijian double started the frame. An RBI-groundout from Matt Fritz and a sac bunt from Rob Elliott gave the Braves their first two runs.
Creighton answered with a run of its own in the seventh, as Soto's second hit of the day scored Carson Vitale from second. It was Soto's 18th RBI of year, and put the Jays up 10-2.
Bradley came back in the bottom half, scoring a run on a Brian McMillan single, but the Jays posted two more runs in the ninth. On a Staehely RBI double and a Soto sacrifice fly.
Creighton will take on in-state rival Nebraska on Tuesday at Rosenblatt Stadium. First pitch will be at 6:30 p.m.