News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 8, 2014

No loss of mojo for Sycamores as they earn 30th win of season

MUNCIE — Baseball is a sport predicated as much as any other on rhythm and timing. So when Indiana State’s baseball team took an unplanned 10-day break, it was right to wonder whether the Sycamores could retain the mojo they had in their 29-13 start.

On Wednesday, the Sycamores returned to action against Mid-American Conference-leading Ball State. That mojo? It was as if it never left. ISU jumped on the Cardinals in a four-run first and did a high-wire act the rest of the way to earn a 9-7 victory at Ball Diamond.

ISU’s long break came about when Grambling dropped out of a three-game series planned at Bob Warn Field last weekend due to travel concerns. While ISU won’t regret avoiding the RPI hit that three games against the struggling Tigers would have inflicted, the long break was unusual.

It was a mental test for the Sycamores and they knew it.

“When you’ve had a big break from playing, one of the big things that gets you going is energy in the dugout. You have to treat it like you’ve been playing every day, like we had been, and keep it going,” said ISU left fielder Jacob Hayes, who had a key two-run single in the seventh inning.

It seemed the long break was going to work against the Sycamores. Before the game started, ISU third baseman Cody Zimmerman re-aggravated his injured ribs suffered against Dallas Baptist on April 25.

He batted once and singled in ISU’s four-run first, but had to leave after that and is day-to-day when ISU returns to action Friday. Michael Eberle was put at third base in an emergency situation and performed admirably.

So did ISU’s offense as it flexed its muscles from the start. ISU (30-13) had five singles in the first inning to fuel its four-run first. Mike Fitzgerald and Eberle each had a run batted in. Jeff Zahn had two.

With the wind gusting straight out, it was bound to be a day for offense and Ball State (32-16) whittled away at ISU’s early lead via the long ball. Solo home runs in the third and fifth innings cut ISU’s lead to 5-2.

The Cardinals’ big blows came in the sixth against Kurt Kudrecki. Two-run doubles by Jarrett Rindfleisch and Alex Call tied the score at 6.

The Sycamores were knocked off their feet, but didn’t stumble thanks to Hayes. After Derek Hannahs doubled and Landon Curry reached on a fielder’s choice, Hayes worked a 3-2 count against Ball State reliever Kyle Raleigh.

Hayes, a left-hander, fouled off three pitches against southpaw Raleigh, including one off his knee, before he pushed a two-run single to right field. Hannahs and Curry scored to make it 8-6.

“Lefty-lefty matchups are always tough. That guy had some good stuff. He had a jerky motion that was hard to get used to. I fouled off a few, had to walk off the one off my knee, but I dug in, choked up on the bat a bit and put one in play,” Hayes said.

A lift also was provided by ISU reliever Josh Dove. When the Cardinals got the first two runners on in the seventh, Dove entered and put out the fire. He allowed one run (charged to Kudrecki) on a fielder’s choice, but was otherwise unscathed as he finished the contest. He earned a three-inning save, allowing just one hit.

“Josh Dove has been tremendous for us,” ISU coach Mitch Hannahs said. “Josh did a great job attacking right-handed hitters down the stretch. Josh does a good job keeping a fastball down in the zone and keeping balls on the ground.”

ISU saved its craftiness for the last. With Curry at third and Fitzgerald at first with two outs in the ninth, coach Hannahs made a gutsy double-steal call. Fitzgerald drifted between first and second, drew a throw, and Curry stole home to make it 9-7.

“It gets us fired up. The dugout gets excited. Everyone gets excited. It’s a great way to gain momentum,” said Curry on the effect on the successful double steal.

The cherry on the sundae was provided by left fielder Connor McClain. Playing on the warning track in doubles defense, he stole a home run from Ball State’s Sean Godfrey.

ISU’s win is vitally important. Ball State was ranked 58th in the RPI entering the contest. A road win against a top-100 team is a boon for an ISU team as it seeks an NCAA Tournament bid.

“It’s a good club over there and they have a lot of confidence. There was no panic over there when we were up 5-1. In the grand scheme of things? We just have to play it out. We’re not a club that can worry about all of those things on the outside,” Mitch Hannahs said.

ISU returns to Missouri Valley Conference action Friday as it plays host to Missouri State.

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