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Indiana State University

May 20, 2012

ISU surrenders series to MSU

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s baseball team won the war this weekend against Missouri State — the Sycamores are the Missouri Valley Conference champions.

But the Sycamores lost the series battle against the pitching-rich Bears. Missouri State starting pitcher Pierce Johnson was masterful in the regular season finale at Bob Warn Field on Saturday. The Sycamores could get nothing done against him as they fell 5-0.

It’s the first time in 12 weekends the Sycamores have come up on the short end of a series. It’s the first time ISU has lost a MVC series since May 2011.

“It’s always good to have a wake-up call, especially one that doesn’t kill you,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.

While the Sycamores (41-15, 14-7) lost a series for the first time since its season-opening three-gamer at Southeastern Louisiana, Heller had no complaints about the Sycamores’ effort in the two losses since it clinched the MVC championship on Thursday.

“I didn’t think there was any lack of effort or focus. We were ready to play,” Heller said. “I was worried about a downer day, but I didn’t think it was that. They just beat us.”

Put simply, the Bears (37-18, 13-7) sent the Sycamores a reminder that nothing is going to come easy as it sets sail for next week’s MVC Tournament and a possible NCAA Tournament regional a week after that.

“Everyone in our conference is good. Everyone comes out to play and everyone has an arm or two. Losing two games going into the tournament isn’t ideal, but we’ll wipe it away,” ISU infielder Koby Kraemer said.

Johnson gets the credit for keeping ISU’s lineup under wraps. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out six and allowed just four hits in eight innings of work.

He walked no one. Even when ISU did get runners on, he was able to ground-ball outs to keep the Sycamores in check. ISU hit into three double plays against Johnson.

There was nothing subtle about Johnson’s approach — he just threw gas.

“He’s got to be one of the best Sunday starters in the country,” ISU catcher Jeremy Lucas said, referring to Johnson’s usual practice of starting on Sunday’s during normally-scheduled weekend series. “He was really good today. Hats off to how he pitched. We couldn’t give any run support.”

While Johnson kept ISU off the board, ISU starting pitcher Ryan Torgerson did the same through five innings. It was never easy as the Bears had baserunners on in each of those innings, but Torgerson worked out of it, benefiting from double plays in the fourth and fifth innings.

The stalemate was broken emphatically in the sixth. After a two-out Luke Voit single, Keenen Maddox lined a home run to left field. Missouri State led 2-0. Torgerson gave up two singles after the home run and gave way to the ISU bullpen.

Tyler Pazik put out the fire in the sixth, but couldn’t keep the flames from re-appearing in the seventh. Missouri State led off with a single and a walk off Pazik. Devin Moore relieved him and immediately gave up a RBI single by Brent Seifert. A sacrifice fly by Brock Chaffin made it 4-0.

Those runs were charged to Pazik, but Moore become responsible for one more in the eighth after Derek Mattea led off with a double and eventually scored on a squeeze play.

ISU’s bullpen had an ERA of 7.88 in the two games it was used in the Missouri State series.

ISU will begin Missouri Valley Conference Tournament action next Tuesday against eighth-seeded Creighton. The Sycamores and Bluejays (22-28, 6-14) are scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.

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