News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 30, 2014

Despite loss, ISU's Keaffaber draws praise

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

BLOOMINGTON — The line score will say that Indiana State pitcher Ryan Keaffaber gave up five runs in ISU's 8-1 loss to Stanford in Friday's NCAA Bloomington Regional opener.

Some truths are harder than others. While Keaffaber did indeed give up five runs, he did a lot of good as well, and the freshman got plenty of praise from both the Cardinal and the Sycamores afterwards.

"He did a good job of keeping us off-balance. He hand-cuffed us and changed speeds very well," Stanford coach Mark Marquess said.

Keaffaber was the victim of two rough stretches in Friday's game. He started off nervous in the first inning, fell behind in the count to Stanford's first three batters, gave up one run, and threw 26 pitches.

But from there, Keaffaber was effective and matched Stanford ace Cal Quantrill inning-for-inning until the sixth. At one point, Keaffaber retired 10 straight Stanford batters.

"Ryan did a great job settling in. One thing he did very well as the game progressed was to throw his fastball in off the plate and keep them honest. Early in the game, they had the approach to dive out over the plate and look for the stuff away," ISU coach Mitch Hannahs said.

Marquess thought Keaffaber's changeup kept his Cardinal lineup in the deep freeze in the middle of the game.

"We couldn't adjust to that changeup well. Until we got the big hit, he was phenomenal," Marquess said.

That "big hit" was a three-run home run by Jack Klein in the sixth inning that broke the game open and gave the Cardinal a five-run lead. But that Keaffaber made it to the sixth at all was a bit of a devil's bargain Hannahs made to keep his pitching staff fresh.

Keaffaber, a reliever for most of the season, worked his pitch count into the 90s by the sixth inning. The 26-pitch first inning didn't help his cause, but Hannahs wanted to ride Keaffaber's effectiveness as long as he could to maintain arms for the remainder of the regional.

"We probably pushed Ryan a little further because we've taken our best guy out of the bullpen. Our bullpen now is situational guys and middle guys. That was our hesitation to dig into there," Hannahs said. "If we would've had the lead, we would've brought [Brad] Lombard, one of our starters, into the game."

Marquess was asked if he thought Keaffaber's 26-pitch first inning would ultimately play back into Stanford's hands.

"He hasn't started that many games and I felt good about the first inning. I said, 'Gosh, he shouldn't last more than one or two more innings.' Then he really worked the changeup," Marquess said.

It was a changeup that Klein hit for his three-run blast on a 2-1 count.

"He was using his changeup a lot and getting ahead with it. After my first at-bat, when I did a little too much with it, we talked about just backing the ball up. I got a single on a changeup on my second at-bat, and on my third, he just left one up," Klein said.

While ISU didn't get the lockdown effort needed from Keaffaber, Hannahs was pleased with the Wabash native. Just a freshman, Keaffaber has at least two more years left with the Sycamores.

"He's got a lot of poise for a young guy. He'll be a good player for us for a long time," Hannahs said.

* Saturday plan -- Regardless of whether the Sycamores play Indiana or Youngstown State, ISU will start David Stagg in Saturday's 2 p.m. elimination game. That was the plan all along for the Sycamores.

What changed was bullpen availability. Besides Keaffaber, Trent Lunsford, Josh Dove, A.J. McElderry and Nick Kolarik all pitched. Lunsford and Kolarik should be available again as neither had high pitch counts. Dove would likely be left out for potential Sunday duty.

With the season on the line, Hannahs has no intention of holding back.

"We'll play it like any other elimination game. There's no need to hold back now," Hannahs said.

* Fan turnout -- A sizable contingent of ISU fans made it to Bloomington for the game. ISU's ticket bloc was above the third base-side dugout and it was mostly filled.

Blue-clad fans were interspersed elsewhere around Bart Kaufman Field. Official attendance was 2,164.