Normal, Ill. —
Indiana State’s baseball was out of pitching, and after a loss to Wichita State on Thursday, the Sycamores were out of second-chances too at the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament.
What the Sycamores weren’t out of was heart, guts and clutch performances from some unlikely sources.
But in the end, Friday’s elimination game rematch against the Shockers was a sampling of ISU’s season overall — the Sycamores were out of luck.
ISU (26-25) rode a bravado pitching performance by starter Josh Negele and got on-base with consistency, but the breakthrough hit never came for the Sycamores. Wichita State used a five-run sixth inning to take the lead and the Shockers held on for a 5-4 victory at Illinois State’s Duffy Bass Field on Friday.
“That was the summary of our season in one day. We always battled, we always fought, but didn’t get a whole lot of breaks and we didn’t execute when we had chances to score. Now we’re headed home,” ISU third baseman Koby Kraemer said.
Negele, pitching on two day’s rest after he pitched 51⁄3 innings in an emergency start in Tuesday’s opener, was stellar again.
This time, Negele went five innings and had a shutout going into the sixth inning. Negele allowed just four hits. Given the short rest, and the fact that Negele rarely threw more than three innings per outing during the regular season, it was an impressive showing.
“Josh did an unbelievable job. He went way longer than we thought he possibly could. When we had the long [sixth] inning, I debated whether to send him back out there, but it was hard not to. I don’t think anyone would have done it different,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.
As impressive as Negele was, he could do nothing about ISU’s most glaring deficiency — its 12 runners left on-base. ISU had runners at third base with less than two outs in the first, second and fourth innings, but scored no runs from any of those opportunities.
“The pitching picked us up, even though we were in dire straits, but we have runners in scoring position with less than two outs three times today and we can’t score them. We didn’t get a big hit or luck or whatever you want to call it,” Heller said.
The game remained deadlocked until the sixth when ISU was able to cash in some runs. Robby Ort was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Kraemer followed with a single. A Mike Fitzgerald walk loaded the bases.
Connor McClain knocked in Ort with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 1-0. After an Owen Conway walk loaded the bases again, Jordan Pearson’s RBI single made it 2-0.
But even an otherwise productive sixth provided frustration. With the bases loaded and one out, ISU could do no further damage.
WSU (38-26) had no such issues in its big sixth inning. Negele was chased after a single and a walk and was replaced by southpaw reliever Tyler Pazik with three WSU left-handers due up.
The lefty-lefty matchup didn’t work in ISU’s favor. After Pazik induced one out on an attempted sacrifice, he threw a wild pitch to put two Shockers in scoring position. Garrett Bayliff’s two-run single tied the game 2-2.
“It just didn’t work out. We needed Pazik to be better than he was. He made a nice play on the bunt, but then unfortunately threw an 0-2 pitch 50 feet, the runners advanced and then he gave up a hit to one of the best hitters in the league,” Heller said.
Kurt Kudrecki entered the game. After inducing a groundout, he intentionally walked powerful Johnny Coy to load the bases. The gambit didn’t pay off, however, as Micah Green squibbed a single up the middle to knock in two runs to put WSU up 4-2. Mikel Mucha added another RBI single to make it 5-2.
ISU wasn’t done however. Ort hit a one-out solo home run to right in the seventh to close the gap to 5-3. After Kraemer was (painfully) hit by a pitch and Mike Fitzgerald drew a walk, Jacob Hayes drove in Kraemer with a single to make it 5-4.
Alas, that’s all ISU could muster. Tyler Wampler got to third base in the eighth, but couldn’t score. The baseball gods smiled on WSU in the ninth when Mucha made a circus catch down the left-field line on a Fitzgerald foul ball that hung up in the wind. Mucha cut his face as he flipped over the chain-link fence in foul territory. With McClain on, Hayes’ deep fly to right ended ISU’s season.
With the loss, seven seniors (Kraemer, Ort, Tyler Fehringer, Devin Moore, Casey McCurdy, Jordan Pearson, Taylor Shaw) ended their ISU careers. Others, such as highly-touted pitching prospect Sean Manaea, could depart via the MLB Draft.
It’s the first senior class to play for four years under Heller. All were winning seasons.
“Four winning seasons is huge. I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life for the opportunity I had here,” Ort said.
For Kraemer, the legacy goes back further. Due to a football injury suffered during the 2009 season, he’s been with the ISU baseball program for five seasons, all of them winning campaigns. No Sycamore has left the program with five winning seasons under the belt since 1993.
“I was a part of a lot of great teams. It was really a pleasure, especially where we came from in 2009. We didn’t even have a locker room to change in; we changed in our cars before the games. To go from that to the facilities we have now? I’m proud to say I was a part of it,” Kraemer said.
WSU 5, ISU 4
INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Curry cf 3-0-0-0, Hannahs 2b 4-0-0-0, Ort 1b 3-2-1-1, Kraemer 3b 4-2-1-0, Fitzgerald c 3-0-1-0, McClain rf 3-0-1-1, Conway lf 1-0-0-0, Hayes rf 2-0-1-1, Pearson dh 3-0-2-1, McCurdy dh 1-0-0-0, Wampler ss 3-0-0-0. TOTALS 30-4-7-4.
WICHITA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Dearman 2b 3-1-0-0, Bayliff rf 4-1-2-2, Baker c 3-1-0-0, Gillaspie 1b 4-0-0-0, Coy dh 3-1-1-0, Doggett pr 0-0-0-0, Green cf 4-0-1-2, Mucha lf 4-0-2-1, Parker ss 3-0-1-0, Harbutz 3b 2-1-1-0. TOTALS 30-5-8-5.
Indiana State 000 002 200 -- 4
Wichita State 000 005 00X -- 5
LOB — ISU 12, WSU 5. 2B — Fitzgerald (12). HR — Ort (5), Kaczmarski (3). SH — Curry (9), Hannahs (5), Conway (5). SF — McClain (3). CS — Harbutz (6).
IP H R ER BB SO
Negele 5 4 2 2 1 2
Pazik (L, 1-2) 1⁄3 1 2 2 1 0
Kudrecki 22⁄3 3 1 1 2 3
IP H R ER BB SO
Minnis 5 3 2 2 1 2
LaBrie 1⁄3 1 0 0 2 0
Vielock (W, 3-0) 1 1 2 2 0 1
Peterson 22⁄3 2 0 0 1 1
WP — Pazik (2); Minnis (3), LaBrie (5). HBP — by Minnis 3 (Ort 2, McClain), by Vielock (Kraemer), by Peterson (Wampler). PB — Baker (8). T: 3:05. A — 356.
Next — WSU (38-26) plays Illinois State at 8 p.m. today in the MVC championship game. ISU concluded its season at 26-25.