TERRE HAUTE —
Power pitching and power hitting kept a season-high crowd of 1,732 Rex fans on the edge of their seats Friday night at Bob Warn Field.
Hard-throwing right-hander Tommy Strunc (5-2) struck out a season-best 10 Quincy Gems in a 12-10 Terre Haute victory, and the Rex connected for three home runs, two of them coming off the pink bats of Indiana State players on “Strike Out Breast Cancer” night.
Kyle Kempf continued his chase for a Prospect League batting title with his second homer of the season, hitting a towering shot off the light pole in left field to put the Rex ahead 6-3. Four batters later, Terre Haute North graduate Michael Eberle stroked a ball into the trees in left-center field.
For Eberle, who missed the entire spring season for the Sycamores after getting struck with a ball in the face, it was the second homer of the week, the first one a game-tying shot Sunday.
“My timing’s getting back. Felt pretty comfortable at the plate today. My timing will just continue to get better and better, and my swing will carry over into the spring for ISU,” Eberle said. “That [Gems] team doesn’t quit, and it’s good to get another win.”
Indiana State outfielder Casey McCurdy showed big signs of life Friday night as well after struggling the first half of the season. McCurdy turned on a Charlie Kapala pitch and sent it over the right-center field fence for a three-run homer. McCurdy’s third homer of the season — and third hit of the game — helped raise his average from .161 to .187 on the season.
“These past couple games I’ve been feeling a lot better at the plate. Hard work is paying off,” McCurdy said. “This is probably the toughest slump I’ve had in my baseball career. It’s definitely hard to climb out of it. I’m doing the right things.”
In addition to the three homers, catcher Brian Norwood had two of the four doubles by the Rex.
It can many times come down to pitching, however, and the Terre Haute staff has been one of the best in the league this season, led by Strunc.
Strunc tried to extend his outing into the eighth inning Friday; his longest outing of the season has been seven innings, which he accomplished twice.
But the Creighton freshman walked the lead-off man in the eighth and the Gems got consecutive singles to load the bases. Strunc walked his sixth batter of the game to cut the Rex lead to 12-4 and Grant Reifers entered in relief, walking another run home and allowing a two-run single.
“My pitch count was up there. I came off the good seventh inning. I had some juice going so I was like ‘Hey, I got the next one,’ “ Strunc said. “My arm was a little tired. I tried to go through it. I didn’t have enough. It was a good learning experience.
“I walked way too many guys tonight.”
Quincy continued to attempt a comeback as Billy Timmerman walked two batters to start the ninth and a third to load the bases with two outs. Quincy left fielder David Kuhne then drilled a triple to right-center field to clear the bases and make it a 12-10 game.
Rex closer Nick Blount came in to throw one pitch to get the final out, earning his ninth save of the season.