News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Indiana State University

May 23, 2012

Blanked by Blach: ISU drops MVC tournament opener

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Things went wrong for Indiana State’s baseball team in its Missouri Valley Conference Tournament opener against Creighton, but one statistic glowed white-hot.

ISU managed just one hit against Creighton starter Ty Blach. The result was predictable … the Sycamores got burned.

The No. 1-seeded Sycamores lost 5-0 to the No. 8-seeded Bluejays at Missouri State’s Hammons Field on Tuesday. The Sycamores became the first No. 1-seeded team to lose its MVC Tournament opener since 2007.

ISU (41-16) will play Evansville at 10 a.m. today with tournament survival on the line.

The Sycamores are in the dubious position of having to get to the tournament championship game via the loser’s bracket. The Sycamores will have to win four games – including two on Thursday – just to get to Saturday’s championship game.

Creighton, the No. 1 seed in 2011, lost on the second day of the tournament and took the long road back to win the championship. But the odds are against it.

“It’s going to be tough for us. It’s going to show us how tough we are,” ISU catcher Jeremy Lucas said.

The loss could be damaging for ISU’s NCAA Tournament at-large hopes too. Creighton’s RPI was 192nd entering the contest.

Blach was masterful as he commanded his fastball. He struck out six Sycamores and retired 17 in a row at one point. ISU managed just four baserunners – two via walks and one hit batsman. ISU’s only hit was an infield single that Rob Ort barely legged out in the second inning.

“I wasn’t terribly mad about our at-bats. We put the ball in play, he only had six strikeouts. I thought our guys battled, we just couldn’t find the hole. Every ground ball we hit was right at them,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.

ISU pitched Sean Manaea on short rest to try and set their rotation for the remainder of the MVC Tournament.

Manaea was strong early, but labored in the middle innings. He threw 61⁄3 innings and allowed five earned runs. He struck out six and walked two.

Knowing full-well that Manaea had pitched last Friday, Creighton (23-28) strived to work counts against Manaea and make him throw pitches.

“We knew he was on short rest so we were going to work him a little bit. We didn’t see the ball well early, but the second time through I saw the ball a lot better,” said Creighton’s Chance Ross, who was 3-for-5 with 3 RBI.

The fifth inning doomed the Sycamores and one mistake prolonged ISU’s agony. Creighton had a two-out run on the board via a Brennan Murphy single after Mike Gerber had led off with a base hit.

Manaea, who had already picked off Ross in the fourth, had Murphy dead to rights again in the fifth. During the rundown, however, shortstop Tyler Wampler dropped the ball and Murphy was able to get back to first safe.

It proved costly. Creighton’s next two batters walked and Ross made ISU pay with a two-run single. Creighton led 3-0.

“It was a huge break for us and we took advantage of it,” Ross said.

No error was charged on the play, but Heller thought the botched rundown was the game-changer.

“It was set up for a pretty good pitcher’s duel. In a close game and important game, it comes down to a simple mistake and that’s not executing the rundown,” Heller said. “You knew it was going to be tough to score against Blach, but you were hoping to keep it a one or two-run ballgame.”

Rundown mistake or not, ISU was getting nothing against Blach. From the fourth to the eighth inning, no Sycamore reached base. Creighton added insurance runs in the seventh, but didn’t need them in the end, as Blach held serve.

ISU lost its third consecutive game. It’s the first three-game skid since February.

ISU will start Dakota Bacus against Evansville today. Bacus struck out 13 Aces, a season-high, on March 23. ISU will need to conserve pitching as much as humanly possible to stay alive in the tournament.

“Right now, it’s just fighting for your life. We need to find a way to win some games and stay alive. The guys who just beat us did it last year. They found a way. There’s no doubt in my mind we can do that,” Heller said.

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