ILLINOIS STATE 8, SAINT LOUIS 3
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Evan Kohli hit two of Illinois State's season-high-tying five home runs as the Redbirds slugged past Saint Louis, 8-3, for the program's first NCAA Tournament win since 1976 in an elimination game of the Louisville Regional at Patterson Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Kohli reached in all four plate appearances and produced two of Illinois State's 13 hits in the contest. The Redbirds (32-23) hit five home runs in a game for the second time this season and saw Kohli leave the park multiple times for the first time in his career. Illinois State centerfielder Chad Hinshaw was 4-for-4 with three doubles while helping the Redbirds remain alive in the double-elimination tournament. The win is Illinois State's first in NCAA Division I Tournament play since a 5-2 win over Southern Illinois to open the 1976 Mideast Regional at Ypsilanti, Mich.
For the second-consecutive game, Illinois State jumped out to an early lead after plating four runs in the top of the second on a solo home run by Kohli and a critical, two-out, three-run blast by Kevin Tokarski. Saint Louis scored one run against Redbird starter JD Learnard in the first inning but managed just two more throughout the game as the freshman right-hander scattered seven hits over 6.2 innings. Learnard struck out a career-best four opposing hitters in his fifth win of the season.
After relinquishing the lead in the second to Illinois State, the closest the Billikens could pull would be two runs at 4-2 in the fourth and 5-3 in the seventh. The Redbirds smacked five hits and scored three more runs in the top of the eighth to make it an 8-3 contest and Ryan Copeland held the Billikens scoreless over the final 2.1 innings to earn his fifth save.
Zach Amrein and Ty Wiesemeyer hit solo home runs for Illinois State. Amrein's blast followed a Kohli home run in the eighth, the first back-to-back home runs for the Redbirds since Anthony Ruffolo and Ryan Court left the yard in consecutive at-bats against Wichita State May 1. Brett Kay (2), Tokarski (2) and Wiesemeyer (2) joined Kohli and Hinshaw with multiple hits in the game.
Saint Louis starter Alex Alemann was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs in 3.1 innings. J.D. Dunn, Jon Myers and Steve Fernandez led the Billikens with two hits each. Saint Louis ends its season with a 33-29 overall record.
Illinois State will meet the loser of Saturday night's contest between top-seeded Louisville and second-seeded Vanderbilt in another elimination game at 11 a.m. (CT) Sunday morning. Illinois State's game can be heard live on the air at WJBC-AM 1230, with live stats at GoRedbirds.com and a free live video stream at www.UofLSports.com.