Illinois State clinched at least a share of its first-ever regular season Missouri Valley Conference title after splitting a pair of games with Evansville on Friday. The Redbirds have a chance to win the title outright with a win over the Purple Aces Saturday. Indiana State and Southern Illinois each tacked on a win, improving to identical 10-9 records in Valley play. The Sycamores can secure the No. 3 seed in next week's State Farm MVC Baseball Championship with another victory over Bradley tomorrow.
In Friday non-conference action, the Valley recorded a perfect 3-0 register. Creighton took a pair of games against visiting New Orleans (14-8 and 10-1), while Wichita State took down Dallas Baptist, 10-6.
ILLINOIS STATE 7, EVANSVILLE 6
ILS (27-21, 15-5 MVC); UE (29-25, 9-11 MVC)
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Illinois State clinched a share of its first-ever, regular-season Missouri Valley Conference title after splitting a pair of games with Evansville at Charles Braun Stadium Friday. The Redbirds fell a run short of keeping pace with Evansville in a 5-4 loss as the two teams concluded a suspended game from Thursday early in the day, but flipped the script and held off the Purple Aces for a 7-6 win in game two.
For the first time since the Illinois State played its inaugural Missouri Valley Conference slate in 1982, the Redbirds (27-21, 15-5 MVC) will finish at the top of the league standings and have a chance to win the outright title in Saturday's regular-season finale with the Aces (29-25, 9-11 MVC).
The third time proved to be the charm for the Redbirds after unsuccessfully attempting to clinch a share in two previous games before Ty Wiesemeyer made a diving catch in left field to end Friday's squeaker. The Redbirds dropped a 14-inning decision to Bradley Sunday and lost in the series opener with the Aces Friday when the game resumed after being suspended due to heavy rain Thursday night.
In the opener, Greg Wallace led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to give the Purple Aces a 5-4 advantage and Evansville relievers Zach Taylor and Tom Heithoff limited the Redbirds to one hit over the final two innings. Heithoff worked a perfect ninth to notch his 10th save of the season.
Illinois State didn't have any trouble scoring in the night cap and pushed across runs in each of the first five innings while building a 7-0 lead. Redbird starter Brad Sorkin limited Evansville to two hits through the first four innings before the Purple Aces showed signs of life. Evansville scored two in the fifth and added two each in the seventh and ninth innings before Kenny Long got Wallace to pop out to Wiesemeyer in left, while earning his eighth save of the year.
Ryan Court and Chad Hinshaw homered for the Redbirds in the second game, with Court driving in three of Illinois State's seven runs. Anthony Ruffolo was 2-for-3 with two runs scored in game two.
The Redbirds and Aces conclude regular-season play Saturday at 1 p.m. Illinois State has clinched the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, which begins Tuesday in Wichita, Kan.
INDIANA STATE 7, BRADLEY 3
INS (33-16, 10-9 MVC); BU (19-30, 7-13 MVC)
PEORIA, Ill. - The Indiana State baseball team moved one step closer to securing the third seed in next week's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with a 7-3 win on Friday against the Bradley Braves. The Sycamores broke a 2-2 tie with one run in the seventh inning before scoring five runs over the final three innings to defeat the Braves.
Indiana State (33-16, 10-9 MVC) struck first on Friday, scoring a single run in the top of the fourth inning. To lead off the inning, sophomore Kyle Burnam, senior Luke Fieser and freshman Robby Ort all tallied singles, with Ort's driving in Burnam from second base. The Sycamores could not get any more runs out of the inning, however, as BU starter Joe Bircher struck out two batters and caught Fieser coming home on an attempted squeeze bunt by senior Tyler Graham to get out of the jam.
That slim lead did not last long, as Bradley (19-30, 7-13 MVC) scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth on a two-RBI double down the left field line by designated hitter Brad Kimball to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
The Sycamores knotted the game back up in the following inning, doing all of their work with two outs. Senior Ryan Strausborger reached first with a bunt single to Bircher on the mound, who then threw the ball into right field allowing Strausborger to continue to second. After Burnam drew a walk and Strausborger stole third, Fieser singled through the left side of the infield to tie the game at 2-2.
The game remained tied until the seventh when the Sycamores took the lead against the Bradley bullpen. Strausborger greeted BU reliever Brad Altbach with a double into the left field corner on the first pitch of the at-bat. Strausborger would move to third on a passed ball before Burnam drove him in with a sacrifice fly to left field to give ISU a 3-2 lead.
Indiana State added three more insurance runs in the top of the eighth inning, with freshman Jordan Pearson taking part in all three runs. With freshman Jeremy Lucas and Graham on base with one out, the West Vigo High School graduate laced a single over the head of Rob Elliott at third base to plate two runs. After a single by senior Ben Ferrell and a pop out by Strausborger, Burnam came to plate with runners on first and second with two outs. Burnam grounded a ball into the hole between first and second base that a diving second baseman Matt Fritz kept on the infield, but Pearson never stopped running from second base and, with the help of an excellent hook-slide, just beat the throw home to put the Sycamores in front 6-2.
ISU would tack on one more run in the top of the ninth inning, when Lucas drove in senior Grant Grgurich from second base.
Senior Joe Rodriguez improved to 7-1 on the mound by pitching eight innings on Friday. The ISU south paw struck out eight batters while walking just one.
Fieser and Lucas led ISU at the plate on Friday, with each tallying three hits. Burnam and Pearson each drove in two runs at the plate to assist ISU in the win.
The Sycamores will look to lock up the third seed in the MVC Tournament with a win on Saturday. Regardless on games currently in progress on Friday and outcomes on Saturday, a win over Bradley tomorrow will give Indiana State the third seed on Tuesday. ISU will send junior Jason Van Skike (3-3, 4.66 ERA) to the mound against Bradley's Kori Jensen (5-3, 6.75 ERA).
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 6, MISSOURI STATE 5
SIU (28-26, 10-9 MVC); MSU (19-32, 5-15 MVC)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Senior designated hitter Tyler Bullock hit two home runs and drove in a career-high five RBIs to lead the Southern Illinois baseball team in a 6-5 win at Missouri State on Friday night at Hammons field.
The Salukis move two games above .500 for the first time all year and now stand at 28-26 overall and 10-9 in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bears fall to 19-32 overall and 5-15 in the league.
It was Bullock's second, two-homer game of the season and the fourth of his career. He now moves into a tie with Chris Serritella for the team lead with 13 and becomes just the second Saluki in program history to hit 30 home runs in a career. He finished the evening with three hits in four at-bats and a walk.
SIU finished the game with eight hits. SIU's first two batters in the lineup, Chris Murphy and Blake Pinnon, both had two hits in the game. Pinnon scored two runs and had one RBI.
Missouri State had 12 hits and was led by Christian Overstreet, who went 3-for-4 with one RBI and a run scored.
Junior left-handed pitcher Randy Hoelscher started on the hill for the Dawgs Friday. He lasted 5.2 innings and gave up five runs (three earned) off of nine hits. Freshman Lee Weld (5-4) got the win, as he struck out three batters in two innings.
Senior Bryant George tied the school record with his 98th career appearance and he registered his seventh save this year and 30th of his career.
Missouri State reliever Pier Johnson drew the loss, (1-2) as he gave up the homer to Bullock in the seventh that proved to be the winning run. The three MSU pitchers that were used combined to strike out 12 Salukis, eight of which were by left-handed starter Aaron Meade.
The Salukis jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the fourth inning.
Bullock was responsible for four of those runs, as he had a two-run single in the first and a two-run homer to left-center in the fifth. Pinnon drove in the other run with his single to left field in the second that scored Jordan Sivertsen.
Missouri State finally got to Hoelscher in the fifth after he gave up just four hits in the first five innings. The Bears got a solo home run from Curt Courtwright and then three other MSU hitters drove in runs. A fifth run came home on a Saluki error to tie the game at five.
Bullock then put the Dawgs back up in the seventh with his solo home run to left field.
George entered the game with two runners on and two outs in the eighth. He got Courtwright to groundout to Michael Stalter to end the eighth and did allow two runners to get on in the ninth, but struck out Keenen Maddox to end the game.
Other Friday Non-Conference Scores Around the Valley:
Creighton 14, New Orleans 8
Wichita State 10, Dallas Baptist 6
Creighton 10, New Orlreans 1