News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 5, 2014

ISU baseball sweeps doubleheader against Wichita State

Sycamores even Missouri Valley record to 4-4

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State baseball coach Mitch Hannahs finally got what he’s been looking for from the Sycamores’ Friday and Saturday starters ... and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite Wichita State is in town for a crucial series. With ISU 2-4 in the league, it was vital for the Sycamores to validate their better-than-expected form in nonconference play with MVC success in Saturday’s doubleheader at Bob Warn Field.

ISU starters David Stagg and Brad Lombard saw to it for the Sycamores. Stagg pitched 6 1/3 innings in ISU’s 3-0 victory in the opener. Lombard allowed just four hits in eight innings as ISU broke a tie seventh to earn a 3-2 win.

“We’ve been searching to put a couple of starts together on the weekends. It was nice to get two quality starts today,” Hannahs said.

Stagg and Lombard bore down when it mattered. WSU was 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the two games. The Shockers had just eight hits overall in the two games and went 15 innings without scoring at all.

“It was the worst two games we’ve played of the season. We had eight hits, they had 21,” WSU coach Todd Butler said. “They played well, they pitched well.”

Game 1: ISU 3, Wichita State 0 — Stagg threw 117 pitches and only retired the Shockers in order once in his 6 1/3-inning outing. That’s not usually the recipe for success, but Stagg made it work for him.

Stagg constantly battled through counts and fooled WSU hitters with a fastball that floated to either side of the plate. Of Stagg’s nine strikeouts, six Shockers were caught looking.

“I just tried to get ahead and command the fastball on both sides of the plate,” Stagg said. “I’d like to shorten my pitch count. I don’t have a problem going full count, I’d rather not, but if I do, I just try to battle through hitters.”

Most important for Stagg was keeping the top of WSU’s order in dry dock. Tanner Dearman and Garrett Bayliff — WSU’s 1-2 hitters — combined to go 1-for-8. That meant WSU’s powerful Casey Gillaspie had no runners to move around when he batted in the three-hole.

“It was big. He’s a good hitter and he moves them around the bases if they get on. I tried to keep them off the bases,” Stagg said.

In many ways, WSU starter A.J. Ladwig was Stagg’s equal and was more efficient than the ISU starter — he tied his career-high with eight strikeouts — but the Sycamores were able to eek out their hits in a timely fashion.

In the fourth, Jacob Hayes led off with a double down the left field line. Mike Fitzgerald followed with a double into the right-center field gap to score Hayes and put ISU up 1-0.

Stagg and ISU reliever Trent Lunsford made sure it stayed that way into the eighth inning when the Sycamores got a couple of insurance runs ... with some WSU help.

With Fitzgerald on via a single, Tyler Wampler hit a harmless grounder to WSU third baseman Chase Simpson who bobbled the ball, allowing Wampler to reach on the error. Jeff Zahn made WSU pay the price as he doubled off the right field wall to score Fitzgerald and Wampler to make it 3-0.

Lunsford pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless and hitless relief to earn his third save.

n Game 2: ISU 3, Wichita State 2 — Lombard took note of the momentum the game one victory gave him and he wanted to make it count.

He did so ... with a little help from his defense. Lombard — who said his fastball, curve and slider were working well by the third inning — struck out four Shockers and scattered four hits over eight innings. But it was a defensive play that started as a mistake that helped his cause greatly in the second inning.

After WSU’s Simpson walked, Daniel Kihle doubled to left. Left fielder Connor McClain elected to throw to second to try and throw out Kihle. Simpson took note and tried to score.

The throw to second was ill-advised, but it worked in ISU’s favor. The throw quickly came home and Simpson was out. The play — scored 7-6-2 — gave Lombard a break and a chance to breathe.

“I loved it. They were fighting for me just like I’m fighting for them,” Lombard said.

Hannahs knew it was ISU’s day when the play was made.

“That’s when you know you’re living right. That play should not have gone to second base. On a lot of days, that run scores. It wasn’t a good play on our part. We reacted and were fortunate enough to throw them out,” Hannahs said.

ISU got on the board in the third — and as it has in other recent games — it did its damage with two outs. Taylor Steen walked and scored on a single by Cody Zimmerman — who was 4-for-4 — to make it 1-0.

ISU added another run in the fifth with two outs. Wampler singled and Zahn — repeating his effort from the first game — slapped a triple to deep right to drive in Wampler and make it 2-0.

This time, though, WSU fought back. Gillaspie lined a home run to right to cut the ISU lead to 2-1. Kihle singled, reached third on a stolen base and throwing error, and scored on a groundout by Dayne Parker to tie it up.

But ISU’s two-out magic wasn’t done yet. Zimmerman opened the eighth with a single and subsequent base hits by Hayes and Fitzgerald loaded the bases. McClain then won a battle with WSU reliever Foster Vielock and he drew a bases loaded walk to put ISU in front 3-2.

“Coach Hannahs has drilled it into our heads to be tough with two outs and with two strikes,” Zahn said.

Reliever Ryan Keaffaber set down WSU in the ninth for his seventh save. With two out and a runner at first, Keaffaber froze Kihle with a well-placed curveball. It was the eighth strikeout looking for the Shockers between the two games.

ISU (20-7, 4-4) will go for the series sweep against the Shockers (16-13, 2-3) at 1 p.m. today.

“It’s big for us. We hadn’t won a series yet and to win two against the conference favorite is huge,” said Zahn, who combined to go 4-for-8 with three RBIs in the two games.

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