News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 29, 2014

ISU baseball shows mental toughness in win over Illinois State

Sycamores top Redbirds 9-2

TERRE HAUTE — When the pressure’s on, there’s nothing a coach likes more than to see his team double down on their approach and grit out a positive result.

In baseball, there’s few barometers denoting pressure more than batting with two outs. On Saturday against Illinois State, Indiana State’s batters repeatedly proved they weren’t fazed by it in a 9-2 win over the Redbirds.

ISU scored all but two of its nine runs and wrapped out all but two of its 12 hits with two outs. Until the ninth inning, all of the Sycamores’ base hits came with two outs.

As much as the hits, ISU coach Mitch Hannahs liked the Sycamores’ two-out approach on the basepaths too. Though the temptation with two outs might be the reign in the aggressiveness, ISU was just the opposite.

Runners were in motion early in the count and several of ISU’s key base hits. ISU had one two-out stolen base and scored a run on another two-out stolen base attempt on a throwing error.

“Coach [Brian] Smiley and coach [Ronnie] Prettyman have spent a lot of time with our hitters on their approach and their baserunning. The ability to get on first base and do some things really affected their pitcher,” Hannahs said.

ISU (17-6, 2-3) also got another solid effort from starting pitcher Brad Lombard. One week after a complete game victory against Evansville, Lombard threw 61⁄3 innings, struck out four and scattered five hits. Lombard knuckled down and pitched out of his worst jam unscathed in the sixth as Illinois State had loaded the bases with one out.

“The great thing about Brad is he really competes in a jam. He threw one of his first change-ups of the day on a 3-2 count in the sixth. I thought that was a huge pitch and it took a lot of confidence to throw it,” Hannahs said.

Lombard was helped by a solid defensive effort as well. Third baseman Cody Zimmerman and shortstop Tyler Wampler stabbed at hard-hit Illinois State grounders and were able to snuff out Redbird rallies.

The outfield defense was solid too. Left fielder Tony Rosselli had an assist, and along with center fielder Curry and right fielder Jacob Hayes, the trio showed their range on a tricky day where morning rain had saturated the outfield grass.

“They did a great job positioning based on the hitters. For the most part, our defense has been solid all year,” Hannahs said.

Illinois State (16-8, 3-2) struck first with a two-out single by Mike Hollenbeck in the first, but ISU took command in the second.  Wampler walked, reached second on a balk, went to third on a groundout and scored on a Derek Hannahs sacrifice fly.

The pattern of the game took shape when Rosselli singled, stole second, and scored on a Curry single to make it 2-1. Zimmerman then hit a fly ball to shallow right field. Illinois State second baseman Joe Kelch and right fielder Logan Leverett collided while trying to chase it down. Zimmerman ended up on third with a triple as ISU led 3-1. Kelch had to leave the game after the frightful collision.

With Lombard keeping the Redbirds under wraps, three runs was enough, but ISU kept scoring. Two-out RBI singles by Manuel Estevez and Hannahs  in the fifth made it 5-1. ISU added two more in the eighth via a Curry sacrifice fly and a throwing error and one more in the ninth via a run-scoring Hannahs single.

It was a good bounce-back effort from ISU after Illinois State ace Daniel Savas shut them down on Friday. ISU goes for the series win at 1 p.m. today.

“We had to forget about yesterday. We had to be aggressive and we ended up scoring,” Curry said.

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