TERRE HAUTE —
If there were any justice, Cody Zimmerman would have been the hero for Indiana State baseball Saturday afternoon in Missouri Valley Conference play against Dallas Baptist — and truthfully, he should have been anyway.
The Sycamores’ senior third baseman, mere hours after Friday night conversations that included the phrase “out for the year” following a pitch that hit him in the ribs and caused him to spit blood, was back in the lineup Saturday and had three hits, scored a run, drove in a run, started a double play and nearly decapitated one Patriot pitcher. Four unearned runs in a weird fifth inning doomed he and the Sycamores to an 8-5 loss, however.
“The X-rays [of what was originally thought to be a broken rib] came back negative,” a quiet Zimmerman said after the game. “It was just good to be back on the field. Now we’ve got to come back [today, at a new starting time of 12:45 p.m.] and win a series … [the injury, perhaps a bruised lung] is not going to keep me off the field.”
“It’s a testament to him,” coach Mitch Hannahs said of Zimmerman’s participation — let alone stardom — on Saturday. “He’s a tough kid and a hard-nosed player. There wasn’t a way to keep him out of the lineup if he could walk and run around.”
Zimmerman certainly came in handy early in the game, following up a leadoff single by Landon Curry with a line drive of his own that put runners at the corners with no outs in the bottom of the first.
In a situation eerily similar to a night earlier, the Sycamores looked ready to waste that opportunity — Curry retired at the plate on Jacob Hayes’ grounder, then a strikeout by Mike Fitzgerald — until Brian Romero dumped a two-out line drive into left field for a double, Zimmerman scoring as left fielder Justin Wall couldn’t hold a sliding try for a catch.
The only baserunner starting pitcher Brad Lombard allowed in the first three innings was wiped out when Zimmerman started a second-inning twin killing, and in the bottom of the second the ISU lead increased to 3-0 on a single by Connor McClain, a run-scoring double by Derek Hannahs and Zimmerman’s two-out RBI single.
Those who disbelieve the concept of momentum will have to go through ISU’s old-school coach — “Momentum is a big part of baseball,” Mitch Hannahs said afterward — and it started to swing the visitors’ way in the bottom of the third.
Romero drew a one-out walk and Tyler Wampler followed with a single. The bases were loaded after shortstop Trevin Sonnier mishandled a force attempt on Jeff Zahn’s grounder, but Patriot starter Cy Sneed — shaky to that point — got out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
Dallas Baptist got its first run in the top of the fourth when Drew Turbin led off with a double and came home on a deep fly to center and a grounder. Then came the top of the fifth.
David Martinelli led off the inning with a line drive to center, but fell to the ground in agony as he hit the ball. Curry nearly had the unheard-of 8-3 play at first base, but Martinelli hobbled to the bag just ahead of the throw from center and — unfortunately for the Sycamores for a couple of reasons — was able to stay in the game after jogging toward right field a couple of times.
K.J. Alexander followed with a line shot toward the middle, but Wampler made a spectacular diving catch. Martinelli was halfway to second base, but Zahn couldn’t catch Wampler’s throw from his knees and the Dallas Baptist runner was at second instead of being doubled off first. Martinelli took third when Nash Knight lined to Curry for what should have been the third out.
Trevin Sonnier’s squibbed one-hopper was booted by Derek Hannahs, enabling a run to score and keeping the inning alive even longer, and a walk to Turbin, an RBI double by Mike Wesolowski and a two-run single by Daniel Salters gave the Patriots a sudden 5-3 lead.
“Obviously you can’t give a team like that extra outs,” coach Hannahs said later.
Lombard recovered from that and had two more innings that were pretty good with the exception of two pitches — one that Martinelli hit for a solo homer in the sixth, one that Salters crushed for a two-out, two-run blast in the seventh.
“When he made mistakes, [the Patriots] hit it,” Mitch Hannahs said of his starting pitcher after the game, “but he competed well. I was sure not disappointed by the way he came out and set the tempo early.”
Sneed’s last two third-inning strikeouts started a stretch in which he retired eight in a row, five by strikeouts, but he didn’t survive the bottom of the sixth. Zahn led off with a single, Derek Hannahs drilled the pitcher with a line drive for an infield hit one out later, and a balk cut the lead to 6-4.
Sneed tried to stay in the game, but was lifted after walking Curry, and Patriot setup man Josh Urban walked Zimmerman, then threw a run-scoring wild pitch.
Salters’ homer restored DBU’s three-run lead, but the Sycamores got two baserunners in the seventh — a leadoff walk to Romero and a one-out single by Zahn — without scoring. Zimmerman’s line drive that Urban somehow avoided ended Urban’s day in the eighth, but closer Brandon Koch came in for a quick double play, then a one-two-three ninth inning.
“It’s best to keep those two [Urban and Koch] off the field,” Mitch Hannahs said after the game. “It’s not like we’re hitting against below-average arms.
“I’m not disappointed with the way we competed, but in crucial situations [the Patriots] made some good pitches and we didn’t get the big hit. … [The Patriots] took advantage of some opportunities, and we left a few [runs] on the field.”
The loss dropped the Sycamores behind the Patriots again, and farther behind Evansville after the Aces’ 5-4 win Saturday against Bradley. Today’s 12:45 p.m. game is certainly crucial.
“We played pretty well [Saturday],” Zimmerman noted, however. “We just caught some bad breaks.”
DALLAS BAPTIST (AB-R-H-RBI) — Turbin 2b 4-2-1-0, Wesolowski 1b 5-2-3-1, Salters c 5-1-2-5, Listi cf 3-0-1-0, Wall lf 4-0-1-0, Martinelli rf 4-2-2-1, Alexander dh 4-0-0-0, Knight 3b 4-0-0-0, Sonnier ss 4-1-0-0. Totals 37-8-10-7.
INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Curry cf 4-0-1-0, Zimmerman 3b 4-1-3-1, Hayes rf 5-0-0-0, Fitzgerald c 5-0-0-0, Romero dh 3-0-1-1, Wampler ss 5-0-1-0, Zahn 1b 4-1-2-0, McClain lf 3-1-1-0, Hannahs 2b 4-2-2-1. Totals 37-5-11-3.
Dallas Baptist 000 141 200 — 8
Indiana State 120 002 000 — 5
E — Martinelli (2), Sonnier (9), Wampler (4), Hannahs (9). DP — DBU 1, ISU 1. LOB — DBU 4, ISU 10. 2B — Turbin (6), Wesolowski (10), Wall (8), Romero (4), Hannahs (4). HR — Salters (5), Martinelli (4). SH — McClain (4).
Dallas Baptist IP H R ER BB SO
Sneed (W 7-2) 5 1/3 9 5 5 2 8
Urban 2 2 0 0 2 1
Koch (S 6) 1 2/3 0 0 0 0 2
Indiana State IP H R ER BB SO
Lombard (L 6-2) 7 8 8 4 2 5
A.Conway 2 2 0 0 0 2
WP — Urban (4). Bk — Sneed (1). T — 2:41. Att — 259.
Next — Indiana State (28-13, 8-6 MVC) and Dallas Baptist (28-14, 7-4) complete their three-game series at 12:45 p.m. today.