Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | Baseball
Baseball Championship: Illinois State 4, Evansville 3 (11)
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Zach Amrein, Illinois State

No. 3 ILLINOIS STATE 4, No. 7 EVANSVILLE 3 (11 Innings)
ILS (36-17); UE (28-25)

OMAHA, Neb. - OMAHA, Neb. - An eleventh-inning sacrifice fly by Kevin Tokarski that drove home Zach Amrein proved to be the difference, as Illinois State held off Evansville, 4-3, at the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday.

With the eleven-inning victory, the No. 3 Redbirds (36-17) set a school record for single-season wins, surpassing the previous mark of 35 established by the 1999 team. With the loss, No. 7 Evansville was eliminated from the conference tournament, ending the season at 28-25 overall.

Kenny Long (4-1) earned the victory, pitching the final 3.2 innings without allowing a run and striking out one with just two walks. Peter Spear (0-1) suffered the loss for the Purple Aces. Amrein led the Redbirds offensively with one RBI and one run in a 1-for-4 effort.

The Redbirds jumped ahead early with a Tyler McNeely sacrifice fly that drove in Chad Hinshaw in the first inning. Evansville responded in the bottom of the frame as ISU starter Dan Savas walked Ryan Oesterle with the bases loaded to force home Trentt Copeland.
 
Illinois State extended its lead to 3-1 in the third inning thanks to a walk issued by Evansville starter Kyle Lloyd to Josh Colon with the bases loaded, allowing Tokarski to come home. The other run scored as Amrein was hit by a pitch with the bases still loaded, forcing in McNeely.

The Purple Aces pulled within one run in the fifth on a Jared Baehl groundout that scored Greg Wallace, who had led off with a triple. Evansville tied the game at 3-3 in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Wallace that plated Cody Fick.

Although the Purple Aces moved runners into scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings, Illinois State's defense prevented the runners from advancing further. With a man on third in the eighth inning, Amrein recorded the third out by catching - and holding onto - a foul ball while somersaulting over the railing in front of ISU's first base dugout. Ryan Court also made an impressive defensive play with a man on second in the ninth, as the Redbird third baseman fully extended his arm over Evansville's third-base dugout railing to catch a foul ball.

After three scoreless innings, the Redbirds took the lead in the eleventh inning. Amrein led off with a single, Hinshaw walked, David Fallon collected an infield hit with a bunt, and Tokarski flied out to right to score Amrein from third. Long held the Purple Aces scoreless in the bottom of the frame to secure the, 4-3, Illinois State victory.

ISU will now face the loser of Wednesday night's (6) Indiana State versus (2) Wichita State game, Thursday at 9 a.m., with the loser facing elimination.