NORMAL, ILL. —
Indiana State’s Wednesday morning wish list probably read something like this: a dominant complete game effort from starting pitcher Devin Moore, near-immaculate defense to support him, and a steady diet of clutch situational hitting from lineup spots one to nine.
Those kind of wishes almost never come true, but the Sycamores had the rub of the green against Southern Illinois in a Missouri Valley Conference winner’s bracket contest at Duffy Bass Field on Wednesday.
The Sycamores used all of the above to notch a 5-0 victory over the Salukis. For the first time since 2001, ISU has started 2-0 at the MVC baseball tournament.
The 2-0 start puts the Sycamores in an enviable position.
ISU can advance to Saturday’s MVC championship game if it wins at 5 p.m. tomorrow against either Wichita State or Southern Illinois, who will play an elimination game in the morning.
If ISU loses tomorrow, WSU or SIU would have to beat ISU again on Friday to keep the Sycamores out of the championship game.
“It was monumental [to avoid the loser’s bracket]. If we had to fight back through the loser’s bracket, it would’ve been virtually impossible given our pitching situation,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.
Moore was electric. He struck out six, walked no one, and allowed seven hits in a complete game effort that kept ISU’s depleted bullpen in dry dock.
“I wanted nine. That was my mentality going into the game. I wanted to help the bullpen,” Moore said. “All my pitches felt great. My two-seamer had a lot of movement. The change-up felt good. The curve was off-and-on, but when it was on, it was sharp.”
Heller couldn’t praise Moore enough.
“Devin was as good as he could possibly be. He threw three pitches for strikes. He never wavered in the late innings. It’s as good a pitching performance as we’ve had in a long time,” Heller said. “He had great mound presence and never wavered.”
ISU’s offense did its part. Every starter save Koby Kraemer reached base safely. Most of ISU’s outs were productive ones. Hit-and-runs and hitting behind runners, something ISU struggled with during the season, were executed flawlessly.
“We’ve struggled most of the year with fundamental baseball. We focused on the process instead of the result. Sometimes you get too result-based and get too big in the swing. We put balls on the ground and played good team baseball,” ISU right fielder Jacob Hayes said.
ISU got on the board in the third thanks to some heads-up baserunning by Landon Curry. The sophomore singled to left. As he made the turn around first, he noticed out of the corner of his eye that SIU left fielder Wes Neece bobbled the ball. Curry never stopped running and reached second safely on Neece’s error.
Derek Hannahs was up next and he slapped a single to left. The speedy Curry scored easily from second to make it 1-0.
“We had quality disciplined at-bats all night long and when Landon Curry has a good night, we have a good night. He had a solid night,” Heller said.
Once ISU got to SIU starter Sam Coonrod’s fastball, the Sycamores never stopped. Two runs were scored in the fourth as the Sycamores once again maximized its chances.
Mike Fitzgerald singled and reached second on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Hayes knocked Fitzgerald in with a single to make it 2-0.
Hayes then turned around and stole second which allowed Tyler Wampler to get into the act. Wampler slapped a single to left to make it 3-0.
Meanwhile, Moore was economical on the mound for the Sycamores. Through 8 2/3 innings, no Saluki reached second base. Moore had thrown just 61 pitches through six innings.
When SIU did try to make something happen, ISU saw to it that they were roundly rejected.
SIU hit into double plays in the first and second. Hayes threw out Cody Dailly on a 9-6 putout when Dailly tried to stretch a single into a double. When Jake Welch reached on a sixth inning Robby Ort error, Fitzgerald threw him out trying to steal second to end the inning.
ISU’s lineup continued to provide in the sixth. Connor McClain led off with a walk, stole second, and scored on a Casey McCurdy RBI single to make it 4-0.
McCurdy then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Yet another RBI single — this time off the bat of Landon Curry — made it 5-0.
Though ISU is in an excellent position in the MVC Tournament, there’s still a lot of heavy-lifting to do. Heller said it is unlikely ace Sean Manaea will pitch today as he was still sore on Wednesday. Greg Kuhlman is scheduled to start.
“We’re in a good position for the position we’re in. We didn’t have to go to the bullpen. Greg Kuhlman will get the ball. Hopefully, he can get us four or five,” Heller said.
But ISU, which also clinched a winning season with Wednesday’s victory, is feeling good about the position it has put itself in.
“We’re feeling really good right now. Every team we play is going to be on their fourth or fifth starter and deep in their bullpen. We have the advantage and that’s big,” Hannahs said.
ISU 5, SIU 0
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (AB-R-H-RBI) — Welch ss 4-0-1-0, Neece lf-2b 4-0-1-0, Jones c 4-0-2-0, Montgomery rf-lf 4-0-2-0, Casillas 1b 3-0-0-0, Dailly 3b 3-0-1-0, Harding dh 3-0-0-0, Rosthenhausler 2b 2-0-0-0, Mottashed ph 1-0-0-0, Johnson rf 0-0-0-0, Troggio cf 2-0-0-0, Trovillion ph 1-0-0-0. TOTALS 31-0-7-0.
INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Curry cf 4-1-2-1, Hannahs 2b 5-0-3-1, Ort 1b 5-0-1-0, Kraemer 3b 4-0-0-0, Fitzgerald c 3-1-1-0, McClain lf 1-1-0-0, Hayes rf 4-1-1-1, McCurdy dh 3-1-1-1, Wampler ss 4-0-1-1. TOTALS 33-5-10-5.
Southern Illinois 000 000 000 — 0
Indiana State 001 202 00x — 5
E — Neece (7), Ort (7). DP — SIU 1, ISU 2. LOB — SIU 4, ISU 10. SB — Fitzgerald (2), McClain (2), Hayes (12). CS — Welch (4).
Southern Illinois IP H R ER BB SO
Coonrod (L, 3-6) 5 7 4 3 3 3
Murphy 3 3 1 1 2 1
Indiana State IP H R ER BB SO
Moore (W, 5-4) 9 7 0 0 0 6
WP — Coonrod (9), Murphy (3). HBP — by Murphy (Fitzgerald). T — 2:10.
B — ISU (26-23) plays Wichita State or Southern Illinois at 5 p.m. today. WSU and SIU play an elimination game this morning.