News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 21, 2014

Sycamores fall flat to Bradley in tournament-opening loss

TERRE HAUTE — Enthusiasm doesn’t always matter. On other days, it means everything. On Tuesday in its opener of the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament, Bradley’s lively bounce was infectious.

That was bad news for Bradley’s opponent — Indiana State — who looked flat in comparison.

Bradley jumped on ISU in the first inning and never ceded control as the Braves defeated the Sycamores 6-2 in Tuesday’s nightcap on the first day of the MVC Tournament.

The loss knocks the Sycamores into the losers’ bracket and into win-or-else mode for the remainder of the tournament. ISU will have higher-seeded company in the misery department.

ISU will play Missouri State at 12:30 p.m. Top-seeded Evansville and No. 4-seeded Wichita State will play in today’s other lose-or-go-home game at 9 a.m. The Aces and Shockers were also upset in their contests.

Illinois State and Southern Illinois will play at 4 p.m. and Dallas Baptist and Bradley will play at 7:30 p.m. today in the winner’s bracket.

While Bradley coach Elvis Dominguez lauded the Braves’ “passion and energy,” it was a disappointing performance from where ISU coach Mitch Hannahs was sitting. He hinted that the Sycamores might be thinking ahead too much to the NCAA regional that is still a near certainty to come next week.

“They were hungrier than us tonight. There’s no question about it. We walk away disappointed we didn’t show more fight,” Hannahs said. “You forget the game is played between the lines. We haven’t had a chance to live because we dodged some bullets down the stretch.”

“You get distracted with things that don’t mean anything to this particular game. Whether they be rankings or RPI, or all of those other things, you forget to come out and play,” Hannahs added.

The Sycamores (35-15) never got into gear. Starter David Stagg struggled as he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings of work.

“[Stagg] did an outstanding job against us last week. Today, we were able to hit a lot of mistakes. He was up in the zone a bit,” Dominguez said.

ISU didn’t work the count against Bradley starter Elliot Ashbeck. The Bradley sophomore threw 102 pitches in eight innings of work and still struck out eight Sycamores. ISU was able to get base hits — nine overall — but couldn’t string them together. ISU hit into seven force outs and one double play.

“I kind of knew what to expect after pitching against them five days ago. It was huge to score first. That gave me the confidence I needed to throw strikes. I threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and stayed ahead of guys,” Ashbeck said.

The top of Bradley’s order had no such issues as they were a constant thorn in the Sycamores’ side.

Chris Godinez, Bradley’s leadoff hitter, set the tone with a leadoff double. One batter later, Spencer Gaa drove Godinez in, and before many fans settled in their seats, ISU was down 1-0.

The top of Bradley’s order did more damage to ISU again in the third. Godinez started it with a single to right and Gaa knocked him in again with a double to left to make it 2-0. One batter later, Bradley slugger Max Murphy hit a towering two-run home run to left to make it 4-0.

“Our offense has been seeing the ball really well. We’re hitting it hard,” Murphy said. “We knew [Stagg] would throw a lot of fastballs and throw away. That’s what we worked on the last couple of days.”

ISU scratched a run back in the third on an RBI double by Derek Hannahs, but Bradley (24-25) kept the pressure on. Two more Braves runs came in the sixth. Greg Partyka led off with a triple — as ISU center fielder Landon Curry lost the ball in the lights. Partyka scored on an error by Cody Zimmerman. A sacrifice fly later in the inning made it 6-1.

ISU got a run back in the seventh on a Zimmerman single, but couldn’t dig out of its hole.

It was an uncharacteristic off-night for the Sycamores, who haven’t had many in a strong season. It was only the fourth time all season ISU has lost consecutive games. Hannahs thinks the Sycamores can bounce back.

“Tonight’s going to stick with them pretty good. They’re going to be disappointed. They wanted to play better in front of a home crowd tonight. I don’t worry about them bouncing back,” Hannahs said.

ISU swept Missouri State at Bob Warn Field in a series concluded on May 11. Brad Lombard is the scheduled starter for the Sycamores today.

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