News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

April 26, 2014

ISU baseball opens big MVC series with victory

TERRE HAUTE — Brian Romero’s clutch first-inning homer appeared to set up Indiana State for an easy Missouri Valley Conference baseball win over visiting Dallas Baptist on Friday night at Bob Warn Field.

It was a win, but the 6-5 decision was anything but easy by the time it was over.

Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, ISU had a 6-0 lead and got two people on base to lead to thoughts of a 10-run rule win if another rally had materialized.

Instead, ISU left those runners stranded, gave up single runs in the seventh and eighth and gave up a three-run triple with two out in the ninth before Landon Curry backed up nearly to the fence to grab the third out.

“I felt we lacked some killer instinct,” coach Mitch Hannahs of the Sycamores said after the game. “We let some at-bats slip away at that point that we would be wishing we had back.”

David Stagg was the beneficiary of the early run support — something he hasn’t always enjoyed as his team’s Friday night pitcher. By the time he was lifted in the top of the eighth he’d thrown 132 pitches.

“David has had the misfortune of matching up with the conference’s best guys all year,” Hannahs noted. “Tonight he could relax and pitch a little.”

“I’ve thrown 130 pitches before, 120,” Stagg said afterward. “I felt comfortable with that high pitch count.”

The only run off Stagg was nearly not one, Curry diving but barely missing a two-out RBI single by Drew Turbin that cut the lead to 6-1.

A one-out double in the eighth by Camden Dusenack finished Stagg, and reliever Nick Kolarik got an immediate benefit when Dusenack was thrown out at third on Mike Wesolowski’s grounder to short.

Wesolowski scored moments later, however, when Connor McClain made a long run only to drop a two-out fly ball near the left-field line. McClain redeemed himself immediately, though, banging hard into the fence to grab Austin Listi’s fly ball for the third out of that inning.

Kolarik pitched himself into trouble with a walk and a hit batter starting the top of the ninth, and relief ace Ryan Keaffaber was summoned. He got one out, then yielded a walk of his own before recording a three-pitch strikeout for the second out. Dusenack made the game a nail-biter with his shot to the left-center gap, however.

ISU had jumped on top in the first inning when Curry led off with an infield hit and Cody Zimmerman was hit by a pitch. Jacob Hayes’ grounder put both runners in scoring position, but Mike Fitzgerald fanned to leave them there. Romero saved Fitzgerald, though, lining the next pitch over the right-field fence for his first homer of the season.

“Brian played for us early in that spot, but then he scuffled for awhile,” Hannahs said. “He’s been swinging the bat better lately, both in games and in practice, and we felt he was a good matchup against their starter [Paul Voelker].”

Stagg pitched around his own pickoff error in the top of the third, getting two strikeouts and a popup after the Patriots had a man on third with no outs. And in the bottom of the inning ISU made it 4-0 when McClain led off with a triple and scored on a Derek Hannahs grounder.

Stagg retired eight batters in a row at that point — although using quite a few pitches to do that — and the Sycamores padded the lead with two unearned runs in the fifth.

Fitzgerald was hit by a pitch with one out, and was safe at second on a throwing error on a fielder’s choice. Two-out hits by Jeff Zahn and McClain made the Patriots pay for that miscue,

Reliever Jay Calhoun and his occasional knuckleball was greeted in the sixth by Curry’s single and Hunter Owen’s bunt single. Those runners were left stranded, and ISU’s offensive threats were over.

Owen was playing because Zimmerman left the game in the fourth inning. His first-inning HBP gave him a possible broken rib, and his availability for the rest of the series is doubtful.

“He played a couple more innings [after being hit], but then he was coughing up blood in the dugout,” Hannahs noted.

Friday’s win enabled ISU to pass DBU in the MVC standings, at least temporarily.

“Any Friday night win is good; it sets the tone for the rest of the weekend,” Stagg said.

“[The Patriots are] a very nice club, very, very well coached,” Hannahs added. “We feel good with a win, but we’re smart enough to know they’ll come out [today] and be ready to play.”

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