TERRE HAUTE —
Teams of destiny are forged out of many elements. Good fortune is one of them.
Indiana State’s baseball team called upon that resource — or did it call upon ISU? — on Saturday against Missouri State at Bob Warn Field.
Down by a run entering the ninth inning after a day in which the Sycamores’ mistakes cost them, ISU rallied for two runs, the last coming when Tyler Wampler was struck by a home plate-bound errant throw by Missouri State first baseman Conor Smith with the bases loaded.
The finish was unusual, but the result was not for the Sycamores. ISU (32-13, 11-6) rallied for the 6-5 victory to win its fourth consecutive Missouri Valley Conference series and to win its fourth straight game overall.
ISU coach Mitch Hannahs doesn’t normally get into the “team of destiny” talk when questions of that nature are asked, but even he had to admit that the cosmic stars were aligned for ISU on Saturday.
“I’d rather be known as a team of fundamentals,” said Hannahs, when asked about being a team of destiny. “But no question that fate was on our side today. Sometimes when you have guys who can go up there and execute, no matter the situation? Sometimes it’s fate, sometimes it’s determination.”
The final play was a capsule-sized version of how the entire game went for ISU. The bases were loaded with one out. Wampler hit a dribbler to Smith at first. It wasn’t hit hard for the Bears to turn a double play, but Smith had an easy force-out on lead runner Jacob Hayes at home. It seemed ISU might blow a chance to get the victory.
Smith rushed his throw, however, and he threw it directly into Wampler’s chest as he made his way up the baseline. The ball trickled harmlessly into foul territory as Hayes scored an unlikely winning run.
Missouri State protested briefly about the call, but Wampler was in the baseline and the error on Smith stood.
“I’ve never been involved in a play like that, but this team never gives up. Anything we can do to get a win, that’s what we’re going to do and that’s how we won today. No one gives up on this team. There’s no panic mode,” Wampler said.
The final play of the ninth was just the most unusual in an inning where everything went right for the Sycamores, even when it went wrong. Landon Curry led off the inning with a single to right. Cody Zimmerman followed and drew two strikes trying to sacrifice Curry to second. Forced to hit away, Zimmerman slapped a single to center.
Hayes then hit a sharp bouncer to Smith at first. The ball bounced just under Smith’s glove as he tried to snag it and went into right field. Officially scored a single for Hayes, Curry scored and ISU had tied the game with no outs.
“Cody didn’t get a bunt down and got a base hit. We toyed with a bunt with Jake and decided to go ahead and swing. It ended up being a good play. If he hits into a double play, it’s a bad play. Fortune was on our side at that point,” Mitch Hannahs said.
Missouri State intentionally walked Mike Fitzgerald to load the bases with no outs. Brian Romero hit into a 5-2 force out to squander ISU’s first chance to win it, but fate smiled on the Sycamores when Wampler came up next for the fateful walkoff at-bat.
Up until the ninth, ISU did a lot within its power to help the Bears earn a victory. ISU had an uncharacteristic four errors and starter Brad Lombard gave up eight hits in four innings of work. Missouri State led 4-0 by the fifth inning.
ISU got a run back on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Hayes in the fifth — a rally that began when Derek Hannahs reached on a dropped third strike. Two more runs were scored in the sixth on a RBI single by Jeff Zahn and a RBI double by Connor McClain.
Missouri State (21-27, 7-10) led 5-3 in the eighth after Josh Dove hit Tate Matheny with the bases loaded. Fate gave a preview of the favors it would lend to ISU in the Sycamores’ half of the eighth when Romero hit a routine fly ball to right. Missouri State right fielder Patrick Drake lost it in the sun and Romero got a fluke triple. He scored on a RBI single by Wampler.
“Sometimes we don’t do things the conventional way, but it’s a nice when we can get a win and win ugly. We have to clean it up for tomorrrow,” Zimmerman said.
ISU plays its final home game of the regular season at 1 p.m. today. Kurt Kudrecki is scheduled to start for the Sycamores.
TERRE HAUTE —
Teams of destiny are forged out of many elements. Good fortune is one of them.
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