No. 17 VANDERBILT 10, ILLINOIS STATE 4
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Illinois State pulled within one run after finding itself down 5-0, but for the second time in three days the Redbirds couldn't find a breakthrough hit in loss to No. 17 Vanderbilt in NCAA Regional play at Jim Patterson Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Commodores tacked on five runs in the ninth to send Illinois State to a, 10-4, season-ending loss.
Illinois State (32-24), which ended its season with the most wins since a school-record 35 wins in 1999, overcame a slew of walks and defensive miscues to pull within one of Vanderbilt (43-18) after the Commodores scored five runs - two unearned - in the first four and a half innings. Despite having a base runner on in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings - including runners on the corners with no outs in the sixth - the Redbirds were unable to tie the game. Illinois State had eight base runners in the final six innings of Friday's 13-inning tournament opening loss to second-seeded Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt No. 3 hitter Aaron Westlake's three-run home run in the top of the ninth was a crushing blow to Illinois State's rally hopes and the Commodores added two more runs while running their final tally to double figures. Illinois State pitchers combined to walk 10 and hit two batters while the Redbird defense committed a season-worst seven errors, yet the Redbirds weren't completely out of the game until Westlake's blast with one out in the top of the ninth.
The Commodores scored their first five runs off Redbird starter Ryan Camp. The sophomore right-hander was tagged with an unearned run in the top of the first inning after Illinois State committed two errors behind him, then worked around a leadoff single and another error in the second inning to post a scoreless frame.
Camp's real troubles began in the third inning when he issued two leadoff walks and hit a batter to load the bases. A fielder's choice, sacrifice fly, then a triple by Mike Yastrzemski led to all three runners scoring. The Commodores scored another unearned run on Camp in the fourth and chased him from the game before reliever Jim Sajewich struck out Yastrzemski with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Illinois State found itself in a 5-0 hole after the top half of the fourth inning, but rallied with a pair of runs in both the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings. Vandy starter Jack Armstrong had control issues of his own with six walks in the game, but didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning despite several well struck balls.
Armstrong walked two of the first three batters in the fourth inning before Zach Amrein delivered the Redbirds' first hit, a double that scored Anthony Ruffolo for ISU's first run. Chad Hinshaw followed with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Evan Kohli and cut the deficit to 5-2. Sajewich held the Commodores scoreless in the top of the fifth and the Redbirds added two more runs in the bottom half to pull within one run.
After another scoreless frame by Sajewich in the top of the sixth, Illinois State saw Amrein lead off with his second double of the game and move to third after a single by Hinshaw. With runners on first and third and nobody out, Brett Kay unsuccessfully tried to bunt, instead popping out to the catcher in foul territory. Kevin Tokarski struck out and Ty Wiesemeyer hit into an inning-ending fielder's choice.
Sajewich worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh, getting Joe Loftus to ground into an inning-ending double play with what would be the last pitch of his Redbird career. The senior ended his career as the all-time appearances leader at ISU after pitching in 90 games over portions of the past five seasons.
Illinois State put single base runners on in the seventh and eighth innings, but were unable to make anything out of it. Illinois State senior Ryan Copeland finished the game by recording the final two outs. He finished his Redbird career as the all-time innings pitched leader at ISU with 334 innings over four seasons.
Amrein was the only Redbird to produce multiple hits, finishing the contest 2-for-3. Illinois State third baseman Ryan Court was 1-for-3 with a pair of walks, and senior outfielder Anthony Ruffolo was 1-for-4 with two runs scored.
Westlake went 1-for-4, scored four and drove in four of Vanderbilt's 10 runs. Curt Casali was 0-for-4 but knocked in three runs. Brian Harris (2), Jason Esposito (2) and Joe Loftus (2) all had multiple hits for the Commodores.