TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament (see related story on Page A1). Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
Manaea would gut it out and pitch five innings, but ISU couldn’t hold on to three different leads, including a three-run lead it gained in the sixth.
But in the end, the Sycamores could close the curtain on a hectic Thursday with a smile on their face. A three-run go-ahead home run by Casey McCurdy in the seventh inning held up as ISU defeated Bradley 9-5.
The victory was ISU’s fifth in a row – a season-high – and it put ISU above the .500 mark (23-22) for the first time since April 20. ISU (8-10) locked up the No. 6 seed at next week’s MVC Tournament at Illinois State.
ISU had 16 base hits and two home runs. The 16 hits were ISU’s best total since it had 16 against Alabama A&M on February 16 and it’s ISU first multi-home run game of the campaign. ISU had just six round-trippers for the season entering the contest.
“We swung the bats well. I thought Connor McClain [3-for-4] and McCurdy [2-for-4] had good nights,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.
The first of those four-baggers came in the first inning as Robby Ort hit a solo home run to right field.
Manaea allowed five hits and struck out four over the next five innings. It was touch-and-go as to whether Manaea would pitch as his hip flared up on Wednesday. Adding into it was the fact that ISU didn’t want to wear him out with a short turnaround to Tuesday’s MVC Tournament opener.
“It took me a while to get warmed up. With every inning, I got more loose and I warmed up. I felt looser in the fourth and fifth inning and didn’t really worry about my hip,” said Manaea, who noted the pain is a day-to-day thing.
Bradley tied the game against Manaea in the fifth. After the Braves loaded the bases, a two-out passed ball by Mike Fitzgerald scored Austin Jarvis to tie the game.
ISU had an immediate response. After a pair of walks, Jacob Hayes knocked in Derek Hannahs with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 2-1 and give Manaea a chance to earn the victory.
ISU’s bullpen, however, couldn’t hold the lead. Bradley tied the game in the sixth against reliever Tyler Browning. A sacrifice fly by Isaac Smith knotted the game at 2-2.
In ISU’s half of the sixth, the Sycamores countered with a bigger outburst. After singles by Connor McClain and McCurdy, Hannahs – who extended his hitting streak to 16 games – knocked them both in with a bloop single to right to make it 4-2.
“Derek has really picked us up. We didn’t have anyone going. I think it’s contagious. We needed one guy to get it rolling day in and day out. Derek has been that guy,” Heller said.
A bloop single by Koby Kraemer knocked in Landon Curry to make it 5-2.
But ISU couldn’t hold the lead. Bradley scored three runs in the seventh with the runs charged to Browning and A.J. McElderry. A sacrifice fly, a fielder’s choice groundout, and a RBI single by Jarvis gave Bradley a tie game and new life.
ISU finally took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh. Mike Fitzgerald doubled to right field and McClain singled. ISU coach Rick Heller elected to keep McCurdy, a left-handed hitter, in the game to face Bradley southpaw Cameron Roegner.
It paid off. McCurdy pulled a Roegner offering over the 372-foot sign in right field to put ISU up 8-5.
“He was throwing me a lot of curve balls. I was definitely looking for those. I got a full count, I scooted up the plate a little bit, he hung one, I was able to stay inside and I hit it to right-center,” McCurdy said.
Effective relief pitching by Tyler Pazik and Kurt Kudrecki – who quietly has a 1.13 ERA this season – made sure ISU’s lead stuck.
“[Kudrecki] has been outstanding. If we’re going to find a way to win the tournament, Kurt’s going to have to throw a lot,” Heller said. “He’s pitched extremely well. It’s shocking to me that all the scouts are here [for Manaea], but I look up and they’re all gone when Kurt’s pitching and he’s throwing 92. He’s got good stuff.”
The Sycamores added an insurance run in the eighth on a McClain sacrifice fly.
ISU continues the series at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Bradley (16-29, 1-18) has lost 16 MVC games in a row.
ISU 9, Bradley 5
BRADLEY (AB-R-H-RBI) – Compitello 2b 4-0-0-0, Tauchman lf 3-1-2-0, Murphy cf 5-1-0-0, Partyka 1b 4-0-0-0, Camalick dh 4-1-2-1, Ashbeck 3b 3-1-1-1, Bunch ss 5-0-1-0, Jarvis c 4-1-3-1, Smith rf 3-0-1-1. TOTALS 35-5-10-4.
INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) – Curry cf 3-1-1-0, Hannahs 2b 4-1-3-2, Ort 1b 4-1-1-1, Kraemer 3b 3-0-2-1, Hayes rf 4-1-1-1, Fitzgerald c 5-1-2-0, McClain lf 4-2-3-1, McCurdy dh 4-2-2-3, Wampler ss 4-0-1-0. TOTALS 35-9-16-9.
Bradley 000 011 300 -- 5
Indiana State 100 013 31X -- 9
E – Wampler (8). DP – BU 1. LOB – BU 11, ISU 11. 2B – Camalick (3); Fitzgerald 2 (10). HR – Ort (3), McCurdy (1). SH – Compitello (6); Kraemer (4). SF – Camalick (1), Smith (1); Hayes (4), McClain (2). SB – Tauchman (28). CS – Hannahs (2).
Roegner (L, 0-1)=2/3=5=4=4=1=0
McElderry (W, 1-2)=1=2=1=0=1=1
HBP – by Nasshan (Curry); by Browning (Tauchman). BK – Nasshan (1); Manaea (5). PB – Fitzgerald (6). T: 3:17. A – 554.
Next – ISU (23-22, 8-10) plays Bradley (16-29, 1-18) at 6:30 p.m. today.