TERRE HAUTE —
Scouts might out-number fans tonight at Missouri State’s Hammons Field as Indiana State and Missouri State open a three-game series tonight.
Why? Tonight’s 5 p.m. game will be a showdown between two of the nation’s most highly-touted college pitchers — ISU’s Sean Manaea and Missouri State’s Nick Petree.
And oh by the way, it’s a battle of two of the Missouri Valley Conference’s best teams.
Both hurlers have lived up to their considerable billing this year.
Manaea has been dominant. The left-hander has a 3-1 record with an 0.84 ERA. He cruised in his MVC debut last week against Southern Illinois. Manaea struck out eight in a win over the Salukis last Friday.
Manaea has 238 career strikeouts, good for seventh on ISU’s all-time list. He is 10 punch-outs away from passing Mike Farrell for sixth place.
Missouri State is one of the teams that got the better of Manaea a year ago. Manaea got a no-decision in a 7-5 Missouri State victory. Manaea gave up three earned runs in four innings of work last May.
Petree, a 6-foot-1 right-hander, has a 3-0 record with an 1.09 ERA. He’s struck out 34 against just 12 walks. Batters have hit just .210 against him.
Petree hasn’t pitched since March 15 when he was the winner in a 3-2 win over Western Illinois. He had nine strikeouts and one walk against the Leathernecks.
The Bears — the preseason MVC favorite — are 15-6 this season and are 6-1 at Hammons Field. ISU has not had good fortune at Hammons Field in recent years.
Since the 2009 season, ISU is 1-7 in the ballpark, including games played in the 2012 MVC Tournament.
ISU (11-8) has won five of its last six games, the only blemish being a 6-2 loss to Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday. ISU currently sits atop the MVC at 3-0. Missouri State has not yet played a MVC series.
Devin Moore — the current MVC Scholar Athlete of the Week — will be on the mound on Saturday. Moore is 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA. Daniel Peterson (0-2, 4.78) is scheduled to start on Sunday.
ISU defeated Missouri State in the series opener at Bob Warn Field a year ago to clinch the MVC regular season title. It would be the last game ISU would win as it dropped the last two against the Bears, lost twice in the MVC Tournament, and lost twice in the NCAA Tournament.
The road trip is the first of two MVC road series that could go a long ways towards deciding ISU’s MVC fate. The Sycamores travel to Wichita State the following weekend.