TERRE HAUTE —
These are the bad times for the Indiana State baseball team.
The will is there for the Sycamores to pull out of their worst slump of the season, but the results are not. The suffering continued on Wednesday at Bob Warn Field as Eastern Illinois defeated ISU 5-3.
ISU’s loss was its seventh in eight games. The win came against Division III DePauw on May 1. ISU hasn’t beaten a Division I team since April 14 when it defeated Creighton.
ISU’s hitting woes — the Sycamores had seven hits against the Panthers and only one frame where they had two hits or more — are well-documented. ISU is last in the Missouri Valley Conference in hitting, on-base percentage and slugging.
“It seems like we’ve been right there every game and things just don’t go our way. Sometimes we’ve made mental mistakes, sometimes we hit it right at the fielders. We just haven’t caught any breaks lately,” said ISU second baseman Derek Hannahs, who is in the midst of an 11-game hit streak. Hannahs has hit .400 during his streak.
Murphy’s Law is not the way ISU wants to live, but it’s the law of ISU’s land at present.
“It’s really frustrating. There’s two things that have really been frustrating. In yesterday’s game [a 9-8 loss in 12 innings at SIU-Edwardsville], I saw some positive things at the bat. Guys were hitting line drives in the middle. But as the baseball gods tend to do, guys were snagging them left and right,” Heller said.
“Here’s guys are struggling, doing the right things, but not getting the results. Then you sometimes, you get to doing the same things you were before,” he added.
Heller was also irked by ISU’s pitching staff in its last two games — ISU lost 9-8 in 12 innings at SIU-Edwardsville on Tuesday.
During the last seven innings in which ISU scored in the last two games, ISU’s pitching staff has conceded at least the same amount of runs or more in response on each occasion.
“The big thing on the pitching side — especially in these mid-week games where we’re down on arms — every time we scored they answered. One of the big things in winning ball games is that when you score — boom — you go out and put a zero up to stop their momentum,” Heller said.
“That’s something we’ve done well over the last three-and-a-half years, but right now, it’s just not happening,” Heller added.
Heller was asked whether the pitching staff feels pressure to put up too many zeroes given the struggles ISU has had at the plate.
“For the most part, we’ve done a good job [of putting zeroes up]. But you can’t go out and walk the leadoff guy after you just scored two runs. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the fact they feel like we’re not going to score runs because when we do, that’s when you stick your chest out and get aggressive. Its been the trend all season in the mid-week games,” Heller said.
ISU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Landon Curry’s leadoff walk was cashed in by Robby Ort via a RBI single.
But the pattern of scoring a run and then giving one up took hold. EIU designated hitter Jason Scholl hit a solo home run to right field off ISU starter Tyler Fehringer to tie the game.
It was the only big blow Fehringer gave up in an otherwise solid effort. He struck out three and gave up four hits in 4 2/3 innings of work.
ISU took the lead again in the fifth as Hannahs scored on a squeeze play by Curry. The Panthers (17-26) answered in sixth with three runs. With the bases loaded, EIU’s Mitch Gasbarro scored on a no-out, 6-4-3 double play. But against ISU reliever Tyler Pazik, the Panthers cleared the bases on a Brant Valach two-run home run to left. The Panthers led 4-2.
ISU got a run back in the seventh as Owen Conway scored on a Tyler Wampler groundout, but the Panthers answered again in the eighth as Scholl led off with a double and Valach knocked in pinch runner Tyler Schweigert with a single.
ISU (18-22) resumes action on Friday with a nonconference series against Alcorn State. Heller confirmed that Sean Manaea will return to his Friday starting slot against the Braves. With less than two weeks to go in the regular season, time is running out on the Sycamores to shake their funk.
“Hopefully we have a good series and get some momentum going into next week,” Hannahs said.
n SIU-Edwardsville 9, ISU 8 — At Edwardsville, Ill., the Sycamores scored two in the top of the ninth to put themselves on the verge of victory, but the Cougars scored two to stay alive and eventually won in the 12th inning.
A sacrifice bunt by Curry and a single by Casey McCurdy tied the game in the ninth for ISU, but the Sycamores were undone by an error in the ninth, which helped the Cougars tie the contest.
Curry drove in a run and scored on an error in the 11th to give ISU an 8-6 lead, but the Cougars tied it again on RBI triple by James Vazquez and a game-tying RBI single by Joel Greatting.
The Cougars got the winning run in the 12th on a RBI single by Vazquez.
Curry had three RBI in the losing effort for the Sycamores, who were swept in the season series by SIU-Edwardsville.