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April 18, 2013

Indiana State baseball's five-game winning streak snapped against SIU-E

TERRE HAUTE — Riding high with a five-game winning streak entering its Wednesday game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, it didn’t seem as if Indiana State was in need of a wake-up call.

But it got one just the same.

The Sycamores made uncharacteristic mistakes and paid a heavy price as the unheralded Cougars strolled into Bob Warn Field and earned a 6-3 victory.

It was just the ninth win of the season for SIU-E.

“It was a weird night. Four of their runs were on free bases. Anytime you give up free bases you’re at risk to lose. Unfortunately, tonight was one of those nights they were able to take advantage of it with some knocks after those free bases,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.

Heller also lamented ISU’s inability to score more runs on a night where the wind was blowing out to left field. Robby Ort was 3-for-5 with all three of ISU’s RBI and Jordan Pearson was 3-for-4, but few other Sycamores were able to produce consistently.

“Anything we did offensively was with two outs tonight. When that happens, it’s tough to score. With the wind blowing out on a nice warm night? There’s no excuse not to score more than three runs,” Heller said.

ISU led 1-0 in the first inning after Koby Kraemer scored after an Ort double, but the Cougars (9-22) answered in the second inning.

SIU-E’s Drew Johnson tied the game with a solo home run to left and the Cougars loaded the bases with a pair of walks and an infield single on a low throw to first by ISU pitcher Tyler Fehringer. SIU-E second baseman James Vasquez made ISU pay with a run-scoring double to put the Cougars up 3-1.

Ort came to ISU’s rescue in the third and fifth innings. He had a RBI single to halve the Cougars’ lead in the third (an inning that ended with two consecutive 1-3-6 caught stealing putouts) and an RBI double tied it in the fifth.

Ort has been red-hot. He’s had seven consecutive multi-hit games. In that stretch, he is hitting .552 with a home run, 12 RBI, three doubles and a triple.

“The ball looks pretty big right now. I’m seeing it well and I feel like anything they throw me, in any count, I’m going to put a good swing on it and hit it hard. They’ve been falling lately,” Ort said.

But Ort’s hitting couldn’t save the Sycamores from themselves. A mistake in SIU-E’s sixth inning proved crucial.

SIU-E’s Matt Highland singled with one out and attempted a steal. ISU second baseman Pearson — who would have coverage responsibility with a right-hander up — and shortstop Tyler Wampler both converged on second base to take catcher Mike Fitzgerald’s throw, which appeared to be on-time.

Their mix-up allowed Highland to reach second safely. SIU-E’s Jacob Stewart promptly singled to score Highland to put the Cougars up for good.

“That’s one of those things that can’t happen,” said Heller on the base coverage mix-up.

The Cougars tacked on two more in the seventh with two outs. ISU reliever Josh Dove left a sinker up and Skyler Geissinger deposited it over the left field wall for a two-run home run to make it 6-3.

Baseball revealed its cruel side in the bottom of the ninth. The Sycamores loaded the bases with two outs for Ort. But sizzling at the plate though he’s been, Ort flew out to left to end the contest.

“Wake-up calls are good for guys sometimes. They have to hurt a little bit and this one does,” Heller said.

Representatives from the Missouri Valley Conference were on-hand for the game. ISU is bidding to host the 2014 MVC baseball tournament.

ISU resumes play on Friday at Illinois State. The game-time for the opener was pushed back to 4 p.m. because of expected cold weather on Friday.

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