TERRE HAUTE —
By his own estimation, Indiana State baseball coach Rick Heller has been involved in close to 2,000 baseball games. If anyone has seen it all on the field, he’d be as good a candidate as any.
But even Heller had to admit he’s never seen a game end in the fashion ISU and Creighton’s did Saturday at Bob Warn Field.
And given that ISU won 5-4 — on an interference call made at second base that wiped the game-tying run off-the-board on the final play of the game — Heller isn’t going to try and give back ISU’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not moment.
“That’s what’s crazy about this game. I’m near 2,000 games and you still see things you’ve never seen before. Today happened to be another one,” Heller said.
Creighton was down by a run, but had the bases loaded with one out in the top of the ninth inning when Mike Peter faced ISU reliever Greg Kuhlman. Peter hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Jordan Pearson, who flipped to shortstop Tyler Wampler for a possible game-ending double play.
Wampler’s throw left his arm by the time baserunner Federico Castagnini slid, but Castagnini directed his slide at Wampler, and though Wampler’s throw was late to first and Creighton had apparently scored to tie the game, interference was called on Castagnini. As a result, Peter was ruled out, the Creighton run was taken off the board, and the game was over.
Creighton’s coaches and players didn’t complain so much as stand in front of its dugout in stunned silence.
“I was happy we were able to hold on because that would’ve been a really tough loss for us,” Heller said.
Replay showed that Castagnini was close to the bag, but it also appeared he made an effort to slide in the direction of Wampler, who by then had stepped on the bag and was to the right of it to make his throw to first.
Regardless of whether the throw had already left Wampler’s hand or not, interference applies. Take-out slides are illegal in college baseball.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, especially in the later innings. It was strange to see that’s for sure,” ISU third baseman Koby Kraemer said.
It was the second bizarre call of the day on the basepaths. The earlier call benefited the Bluejays in the seventh inning and Kraemer was involved.
With ISU leading 4-1, Creighton had the bases loaded and had two outs. Brad McKewon singled to left and Alex Staehely scored easily from third.
When Brennan Murphy, the Creighton runner on second, attempted to make his turn to tag third base and head home, Kraemer ran in front of him to take his relay position. The two briefly made contact. Murphy was thrown out easily at home, but immediately got up and stridently protested that he had been obstructed as he rounded third base.
The umpires conferred and decided Kraemer did obstruct Murphy. His run counted and ISU’s lead was cut to 4-2. ISU later got out of the inning without incurring further damage.
“Koby was trying to get in position for the relay, but he has to give ground to the runner. The runner appeared to try and make contact with Koby. I didn’t think it affected the play. I can’t necessarily say there wasn’t obstruction, that’s just what I saw,” said Heller, who praised the umpire’s effort to confer and get it right even if he disagreed with the ultimate call.
Replay showed that Kraemer was in Murphy’s path as he made his turn, but replay was also inconclusive as to whether Murphy helped initiate contact. By rule, it doesn’t matter if he did or not, obstruction can be called if there’s any contact between a defensive player and a baserunner.
“It was tough. I was trying to be the cutoff and I got a late jump on it. I was close to him, I ran in front, and I felt his hands on me, but if you make contact at all, whether its intentional or unintentional, it’s obstruction. Just one of those things,” Kraemer said.
The two plays — which added and subtracted runs off the board for Creighton — somewhat overshadowed the fact that ISU clinched the series victory over the Bluejays and kept ISU unbeaten at Warn Field in MVC play at 5-0. ISU (16-13, 6-5) won its fourth game in a row overall.
Sean Manaea, starting a day later than usual due to lingering effects from a hip injury, earned his fifth victory of the season, but labored to do so. If you can call eight strikeouts “laboring”, that is. Manaea was strong through five innings, but tired noticeably in his last two frames and walked three in his final inning.
Manaea admitted that his hip injury, which was suffered partly as a consequence of an ankle injury he suffered at Minnesota in March, is an ever-present annoyance on the mound.
“It’s not terrible, but I’m not 100 percent. I can’t fully follow through with my all of my pitches. It’s in the back of my mind,” Manaea said. “I feel like every pitch it’s annoying pain.”
ISU’s bats continued to wake from their early spring slumber. ISU’s batting average was just .238 entering the Creighton series, but during its four-game winning streak, ISU has batted .322.
Kraemer, who is hitting .320, continued to play a big role. He had three doubles on Saturday in a 3-for-4 effort. He scored two of ISU’s five runs.
ISU took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Kraemer doubled and scored on a Robby Ort single to left. Ort later scored on a Jacob Hayes groundout. ISU scored two more in the sixth on a two-run, two-out single by Wampler.
After Creighton’s contentious seventh halved ISU’s advantage, ISU pushed over what turned out to be an important insurance run. Kraemer scored on a Jacob Hayes groundout after his third double of the game to make it 5-2.
Manaea and ISU’s bullpen struggled to hold on as the Bluejays (18-8, 5-3) scored at least one run in the last three innings.
The series concludes at 1 p.m. today. ISU’s Daniel Peterson (1-3, 4.81) squares off against Creighton’s Austin Groth (2-0, 6.00).
ISU 5, Creighton 4
CREIGHTON (AB-R-H-RBI) — McKewon 4-0-2-2, Castagnini 3b 4-0-1-1, Peter 2b 5-0-1-0, Gerber cf 4-1-2-1, Staehely ss 2-1-0-0, Murphy rf 3-1-1-0, Blatchford dh 2-0-0-0, R. Fitzgerald ph 1-0-0-0, Lucansky 1b 2-1-0-0, Mitchell c 2-0-0-0, Lamb ph 2-0-1-0, Makovicka pr 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 31-4-8-4.
INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Curry cf 5-0-2-0, Zimmerman dh 3-0-0-0, Kraemer 3b 4-2-3-0, Ort 1b 4-1-2-1, Hayes rf 4-0-3-1, McCurdy lf 1-0-0-0, Conway lf 2-0-0-0, Pearson 2b 3-1-0-1, M. Fitzgerald c 4-1-1-0, Wampler ss 4-0-1-2. TOTALS 34-5-12-5.
Creighton 000 000 211 — 4
Indiana State 000 202 10X — 5
DP — ISU 1. LOB — CU 8, ISU 8. 2B — Kraemer 3 (13), M. Fitzgerald (4); HR — Gerber (4); SH — Castagnini (11), Staehely (4); McCurdy (1). CS — Peter (1); Hayes (3).
IP H R ER BB SO
Musec (L, 0-4) 4 1/3 6 2 2 1 3
Winkelman 1 1/3 1 1 1 1 0
Highberger 0 3 1 1 0 0
Lukowski 1 1/3 2 1 1 0 0
Sova 1 0 0 0 0 0
IP H R ER BB SO
Manaea (W, 5-2) 6 2/3 5 2 2 4 8
Kudrecki 1 2/3 2 2 2 1 1
Dove 0 1 0 0 0 0
Kuhlman (SV, 1) 2/3 0 0 0 0 0
HBP — by Kudrecki (McKewon). T — 3:04. A — 575.
Next — ISU (16-13, 6-5) plays host to Creighton (18-8, 5-3) at 1 p.m. today.