TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s baseball team rode a wild ride of emotion on Thursday.
First came the public announcement that Bob Warn Field would host the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament (see related story on Page A1). Later, Sean Manaea’s availability to pitch ISU’s series opener against Bradley was in doubt.
Manaea would gut it out and pitch five innings, but ISU couldn’t hold on to three different leads, including a three-run lead it gained in the sixth.
But in the end, the Sycamores could close the curtain on a hectic Thursday with a smile on their face. A three-run go-ahead home run by Casey McCurdy in the seventh inning held up as ISU defeated Bradley 9-5.
The victory was ISU’s fifth in a row – a season-high – and it put ISU above the .500 mark (23-22) for the first time since April 20. ISU (8-10) locked up the No. 6 seed at next week’s MVC Tournament at Illinois State.
ISU had 16 base hits and two home runs. The 16 hits were ISU’s best total since it had 16 against Alabama A&M on February 16 and it’s ISU first multi-home run game of the campaign. ISU had just six round-trippers for the season entering the contest.
“We swung the bats well. I thought Connor McClain [3-for-4] and McCurdy [2-for-4] had good nights,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.
The first of those four-baggers came in the first inning as Robby Ort hit a solo home run to right field.
Manaea allowed five hits and struck out four over the next five innings. It was touch-and-go as to whether Manaea would pitch as his hip flared up on Wednesday. Adding into it was the fact that ISU didn’t want to wear him out with a short turnaround to Tuesday’s MVC Tournament opener.