TERRE HAUTE —
By Andy Amey
It could have been just a mop-up role for Josh Dove on Sunday at Bob Warn Field, but the Indiana State relief pitcher wasn’t thinking that way.
And not many minutes after he entered the game trying to close out the top of the seventh inning with his team three runs behind, Dove was getting handshakes as the winning pitcher after the Sycamores had come from behind for an 8-5 win over Western Illinois.
“When I came in, I was confident [in the team],” the Terre Haute South graduate said after the game. “We just needed something to build momentum, and when that triggers, everybody starts to make contributions.”
ISU’s win was its second straight in its first homestand of the season, its 11th in a row overall — and it certainly wasn’t perfect.
“We haven’t played as well [the last two days] as we played early,” coach Mitch Hannahs admitted afterward. “[The Sycamores] are pressing a little bit, wanting to make a good impression in the first home series.”
The Sycamores are doing a couple of things that impress their first-year coach, though.
“[The key play] always comes from a different area,” Hannahs said Sunday. “Somebody’s always stepping up at the right time, and we’re figuring out how to win games down the stretch.”
Hustle and all-out effort are also making a difference, and certainly did Sunday.
“They’ve played hard,” the coach said of his team. “They’ve played hard from the word ‘Go.’ We’ve been able to sustain aggressiveness on the bases and put pressure on the other team.”
For nearly half the game Sunday, ISU seemed to be cruising to that 11th straight win. Landon Curry had reached base twice, stolen two bases and been driven home twice by Jacob Hayes. And starting pitcher Brad Lombard had allowed just one infield hit through four innings.
But Lombard’s only walk of the game came at the worst possible time — with two out and a man on in the top of the fifth, to Western’s ninth-place hitter. That invitation to disaster was followed by a two-out triple to the center-field fence by Brent Turner that tied the score.
The Leathernecks’ first two home runs of the season, a solo shot by Jake Moore in the sixth and a two-out, two-run bomb off reliever A.J. McElderry by Jameson Henning in the seventh, had the visitors up 5-2; Dove was summoned after one more hit.
A strikeout quickly put out the fire, and Cody Zimmerman led off the bottom of the inning with a double off the left-field fence. Hayes followed with a walk, and with one out pinch-hitter Brian Romero singled to drive in a run.
Tyler Wampler was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Jeff Zahn’s sacrifice fly cut the lead to 5-4. Then the ISU aggressiveness paid off.
Connor McClain hit a hard grounder between first and second, but Payton Jeffers made a diving stop to keep the ball in the infield. McClain’s hustle forced a quick throw, however, and it was dropped by first baseman Tanner Glore — as Romero was scoring the tying run all the way from second base and Wampler was racing to third. Derek Hannahs dropped a soft line drive over Glore’s head, and ISU had regained the lead at 6-5.
Dove needed just seven pitches to induce three easy grounders in the top of the eighth, and Mike Fitzgerald gave Dove some insurance in the bottom of the inning with his first homer of the season after a hit by Hayes. A diving catch by Curry helped make Dove’s ninth inning a six-pitch breeze.
“Whether it’s throwing strikes, or moving runners … situational, we’re pretty good,” Dove said after the game. “I was just focused on throwing strikes, keeping the ball down and trying to give us a chance to win.”
“Josh really stabilized the game,” Hannahs said of his burly sidearmer, who always displays good velocity and movement and who on Sunday also had impeccable command. “He got [Western’s] hitters back on their heels. He threw some awfully good pitches.”
Hayes had a 3-for-3 day that also included a sacrifice fly and his two RBIs, and Wampler had three hits. Wampler also had the game’s other defensive gem, reversing direction for a backhand stop on a hit-and-run grounder, then throwing out the runner at first from his knees to end the top of the sixth.
The two teams complete their three-game series at noon today.
WESTERN ILLINOIS (AB-R-H-RBI) — Turner 2b 3-0-1-2, Jeffers ph-2b 2-0-0-0, Henning ss 4-1-1-2, DeCook rf 4-0-1-0, Glore 1b 4-0-1-0, Moore dh 4-1-1-1, Stafford 3b 3-1-1-0, Reimer c 4-0-0-0, Burling cf 4-1-1-0, Maki lf 3-1-0-0. Totals 35-5-7-5.
INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Curry cf 5-2-1-0, Zimmerman dh 4-1-1-0, Hayes rf 3-2-3-2, Fitzgerald c 4-1-1-2, Eberle 3b 3-0-0-0, Romero ph-3b 2-1-1-1, Wampler ss 4-1-3-0, Zahn 1b 3-0-0-1, McClain lf 4-0-1-0, Hannahs 2b 4-0-1-1. Totals 37-8-12-7.
Western Illinois 000 021 200 — 5
Indiana State 101 000 42x — 8
E — Turner (2), Reimer (1), Lombard (1), Glore (5). LOB — WIU 5, ISU 11. 2B — Zimmerman (4). 3B — Turner (1). HR — Moore (1), Henning (1), Fitzgerald (1). SB — Curry 2 (8), Hayes 2 (4), Burling 2 (5), Hannahs (1), Wampler (2). SF — Hayes (2), Zahn (1).
Western Illinois IP H R ER W K
Willman 6 6 2 1 2 3
Church 0.1 1 2 2 1 0
Nunn (L, 0-1) 1.1 5 4 2 0 2
Riley 0.1 0 0 0 0 0
Indiana State IP H R ER W K
Lombard 6.1 5 4 3 1 7
McElderry 0.1 2 1 1 0 1
Dove (W, 1-0) 2.1 0 0 0 0 1
HBP — by Lombard (Stafford), by Willman (Fitzgerald), by Nunn (Wampler). PB — Fitzgerald (4). Att — 215. T — 2:41.
Next — Indiana State (11-1) and Western Illinois (1-8) conclude their three game series at noon today at Bob Warn Field.