No. 2 ILLINOIS STATE 17, No. 1 WICHITA STATE 8
ILS (31-22); WSU (41-19)
WICHITA, Kan. - Illinois State scored in each of the first six innings and got a hit from every player in the starting lineup while slugging its way to a 17-8 victory over Wichita State and its second-ever State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship at Eck Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Redbirds (31-22) pounded out 20 hits and took advantage of several Wichita State (41-19) miscues to claim their first league tournament title since 1994. The regular season co-champions with Wichita State after finishing with identical 15-6 records, Illinois State earned the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament as they evened the season-series. The bid will mark Illinois State's third foray into the NCAA Tournament, and first since 1994.
The heart of Illinois State's lineup - the No. 4, 5, 6 and 7 hitters - combined for 12 hits in the game and three of the team's four home runs. Clean-up hitter Anthony Ruffolo started the scoring with a two-run blast in the first inning off previously untouchable Shocker starter Jordan Cooper, snapping a 23-inning scoreless streak by the Valley's Pitcher of the Year against Illinois State.
Wichita State answered with five runs in the top of the second inning off Redbird starter Corey Maines - the tough-luck loser in three previous appearances against Cooper - but the junior right hander settled down and held the Shockers to just one run over the next two frames.
Senior designated hitter Evan Kohli hit a solo shot off Cooper to begin the bottom of the second and the Redbirds used five hits and two errors to push across five runs of their own. In the second, Redbird second baseman Kevin Tokarski topped his own single-season steals record by swiping his 33rd base of the year and moved into sole possession of first place on the single-season hits list with his 82nd of the season.
Illinois State kept the scoring going in the bottom of the third inning, thanks in part to another home run - a two-run blast by Matt Mirabal - and held a commanding 12-6 advantage after three innings. Illinois State tacked on three more in the fourth and answered Wichita State single runs with single tallies in the fifth and sixth innings.
Redbird reliever Cam Verbeke earned the win after three innings of relief. He surrendered six hits but didn't allow a walk and allowed just two runs. Kenny Long and Ryan Copeland held the Shockers scoreless over the final two innings. Cooper was saddled with the loss, just his third in 13 decisions this season.
Kohli and Zach Amrein were 4-for-5 in the ballgame and were two of Illinois State's six MVC All-Tournament Team selections. Mirabal (3), Ryan Court (2) and Chad Hinshaw (2) each had multiple-hit efforts. Court, Long, Mirabal and Tokarski were also named to the All-Tournament Team with Tokarski taking Most Outstanding Player honors.
Nate Goro and Cody Lassley each led Wichita State with three hits. Lassley hit his 11th homer of the season while driving in two runs and Bret Bascue connected on two long balls while driving in three for the Shockers. WSU used five pitchers in the contest.
Illinois State will now wait for the unveiling of the 2010 NCAA Tournament field, set to take place at 11:30 a.m. Monday on ESPN.