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May 16, 2014

ISU baseball takes 7th straight, still alive for share of MVC title

PEORIA, Ill. — It’s a shred of a chance, just a shred, but Indiana State’s baseball team can still claim a piece of the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship.

A 4-3 victory in 10 innings over Bradley at Peoria’s Dozer Park kept the Sycamores in position to share the MVC title with Evansville.

An ISU win and an Evansville loss today at Missouri State would give ISU a share of the MVC crown. The ISU win, its seventh straight, clinched the No. 2 seed in next week’s MVC Tournament. The Purple Aces have already sewed up the top seed.

It was a typical high-wire act for the Sycamores to vanquish the Braves. A come-from-behind effort — ISU (35-13, 14-6) trailed by two runs as late as the seventh inning — ISU got over the top in the 10th.

Tyler Wampler, who was on base in four of his five plate appearances, drew a one-out walk and stole second. After Jeff Zahn grounded to second, Connor McClain stepped up with two outs.

The left-handed McClain pulled a grounder to right field. It trickled just past Bradley second baseman Chris Godinez and Wampler scored easily from third to break the deadlock. McClain, who has hit .313 in ISU’s last 10 games, was 3 for 5 in the contest.

The Braves made ISU sweat in the bottom of the 10th ... to the point where tempers boiled over. Godinez drew a one-out walk.

Two batters later, Max Murphy hit a grounder into the hole between shortstop and third base.

With a heavy rain having just started to fall, Wampler dug in and threw a peg to first, but Murphy just beat the throw. ISU coach Mitch Hannahs, already warned for arguing balls and strikes, disagreed that Murphy was safe and was ejected.

The tempest proved to be a brief detour for ISU. Ryan Keaffaber, who earned his 11th save, getting Greg Partyka to ground out for the final out.

Bradley (22-25, 4-16) led from the first inning when it used four base hits off ISU starter Brad Lombard to take a 2-0 lead.

From that point, however, Lombard was effective. He retired eight consecutive Braves after Bradley’s first-inning outburst.

ISU halved Bradley’s lead to 2-1 in the fifth. Wampler reached on an error and later scored on a Landon Curry infield single. An inning-ending diving catch by Bradley center fielder Isaac Smith prevented further ISU damage.

Lombard’s weak spot was the top of Bradley’s lineup. Leadoff hitter Godinez singled and scored two batters later on a Max Murphy single.

It would prove to be Bradley’s last base hit until Murphy’s contentious 10th inning hit ... and the Sycamores didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

ISU tied the game in the seventh. McClain singled, Derek Hannahs reached on an error and Cody Zimmerman walked to load the bases for Jacob Hayes. The ISU right fielder singled to left to knock in McClain and Hannahs to tie the game.

ISU had runners in scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings, but finally cashed its chips in the extra frame.

Kurt Kudrecki will be the scheduled starting pitcher for the Sycamores in today’s 2 p.m. series finale.

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