EUGENE, Ore. —
Indiana State’s baseball team came to Oregon’s PK Park bearing gifts during Friday’s NCAA Regional opener against Cal State Fullerton.
Unfortunately for the Sycamores, they gave enough to make it hurt against the game Titans.
The third-seeded Sycamores lost 9-5 to the second-seeded Titans. Ineffective pitching and defense provided to be ISU’s undoing as it is one loss away from ending its season.
Down by four after three innings, the Sycamores did have fight too as it fought back from an early four-run deficit to tie the game in the sixth inning, but the runs conceded by ISU tended to be ones of an avoidable nature, and that stuck in the Sycamores’ craw.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was extremely disappointed in our performance today,” ISU coach Rick Heller said. “It was probably the worst game we played all season.
Though ISU had two official errors, it had several more mental ones. Bases occasionally weren’t covered, there were two balks, four Titans were hit by pitches and ISU did not defend Fullerton’s small ball bunting game effectively.
“Little things just killed us. It just wasn’t us today,” ISU first baseman Jon Hedges said.
Fullerton got Bacus off-balance from the start. With one out in first, Ivory Thomas hit a soft liner that ricocheted off Bacus. He forced a throw to first past Hedges and Thomas was safe at second.
Bacus would never get back on track after the play.
“Basically, nothing worked out. In the bullpen, I felt great, it all looked great. I came out and I basically laid an egg. Normally, I’d catch that ball; I thought it was hit harder. I let the game speed up from there and it went downhill,” Bacus said.
Bacus walked the next two batters to load the bases. Anthony Hutting knocked in the Titans’ first run on a fielder’s choice and Matt Chapman drove in another with a single to center to make it 2-0.
The Titans added another in the second as Bacus continued to struggle with control. Anthony Trajano was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning. He was sacrificed to second and went to third on a balk.
It seemed ISU would get out of it when Thomas laid down a surprise bunt. Bacus fielded it cleanly, but second baseman Koby Kraemer, who was to cover first base, collided with the second base umpire. Hedges had to make a late break for first base and couldn’t get his foot on the bag for the out. Trajano scored to make it 3-0.
ISU grabbed a foothold in the third. Ryan Walterhouse led off with a double to left and he came around to score on a Koby Kraemer single to center to make it 3-1.
But the defensive weakness Fullerton sensed on the Sycamores’ part continued to bear fruit as it tried to repeatedly bunt its way on-base. The Titans squared up in seemingly any situation, including several two-out bunt attempts.
It bunted successfully in third inning too as Chapman got a bunt single to put Anthony Hutting – who had walked – in scoring position. J.D. Davis’ traditional single to left knocked in Hutting to make it 4-1.
“The mistakes were the walks and the hit batters. We had eight free bases by that. That’s what got to them. You take those away and our bunts don’t come into play,” Fullerton coach Rick Vanderhook said.
A RBI single by Jared Deacon later in the inning chased Bacus. He pitched just 2 2/3 innings. He allowed five runs, walked three batters, hit another and had a throwing error.
“Our team is here because our starting pitching has been outstanding all season long,” Heller said. “Today, when Dakota didn’t have it, we were in a bind.”
Unlike its slow fades in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, the Sycamores’ offense stepped up and gave ISU a chance to win.
ISU scored in fourth to make it 5-2 on a double play grounder by Hedges, but it was all Sycamores got after loading bases with no outs.
The fifth inning was more fruitful. A one-out Kyle Burnam double and single by Jeremy Lucas put runners at corners. Ort subsequently hit into grounder, but Lucas was running on play, so Fullerton could only retire one runner and Sycamores scored to make it 5-3.
The play gave ISU a window and it took advantage. Hedges followed with a RBI single to make it 5-4. Lucas Hileman then stepped up and slapped a liner down the right field line. Hedges, not fleet of foot, hustled around the bases and his head-first slide just beat the throw from right. The Sycamores had tied the game. Hileman settled in at third with what was scored a double.
“We worked all the way back. We just couldn’t finish the deal,” Hedges said.
ISU chased Fullerton starter Grahamm Wiest, but reliever Koby Gauna held the Sycamores in check for 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Fullerton’s offense put the onus back on the Sycamores.
Fullerton immediately put a run back on the board in its half of the sixth. Anthony Trajano led off with a single and was balked to second by Tyler Pazik. Jared Deacon was then hit by Pazik.
After – what else? – a Fullerton sacrifice, Thomas drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 6-5.
Any hope ISU had of clawing back into it was squelched when Fullerton scored three insurance runs in the eighth against four different ISU relief pitchers.
ISU will pitch lefty Sean Manaea against either Oregon or Austin Peay at 5 p.m. today. The Ducks-Governors game ended after the Tribune-Star’s deadline.