TERRE HAUTE —
Mother Nature has been the bane of the Indiana State baseball team’s existence all season. Eight games wiped due to weather are a testament to that.
So it was no surprise, though no less disappointing, when she didn’t deal Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea the greatest hand on Saturday as he tries to recover from a hip injury.
Manaea has been dogged by a bad hip since March. He would have missed a start last week — had ISU’s series at Tennessee-Martin not been rained out. He made his return to the ISU rotation to face Evansville after having an injection in his hip earlier this week.
Manaea returned to a gloomy day at Bob Warn Field. Steady rain made life miserable for everyone, but especially the pitchers. The ball was slippery, and despite efforts by ISU’s ground crew between innings to dry the pitching mound, the relentless precipitation made it an impossible task and made the landing area iffy for pitchers.
Finally, the rain became too much to bear and the game was suspended in the seventh inning. The game will be resumed at 1 p.m. today and will be finished prior to the scheduled Sunday game. Evansville leads 1-0 in the top of the seventh with a runner on first base.
Given the conditions and his injury, the one run that Manaea allowed in the four innings he pitched was pretty impressive … even if his pitch speed hasn’t yet reached the levels it did during his breakout Cape Cod League season last summer.
“He hadn’t pitched in two weeks and his injection didn’t allow him to do any workouts. The fact he was able to compete and give us a chance? I was pleased,” ISU coach Rick Heller said.
Manaea was harder on himself, but he located his pitches well, and was savvy enough to get out of some jams. He still had strikeout stuff too. He set down five Purple Aces on strikes in four innings and struck out the side in the second frame. Manaea threw 82 pitches in four innings.
“I thought I did just all right. I didn’t feel I was my normal off-speeds were thrown for strikes, so I kind of struggled with that. Besides that, I felt my fastball command was all right. Given the conditions, I guess it was an average start for me,” Manaea said.
The rain didn’t make it easy for Manaea, but the conditions didn’t exacerbate his injury either.
“I couldn’t even put my cleats in the dirt. I felt like thick powder under my shoes. It was weird, but I felt all right [physically],” Manaea said. “The hip felt good today.”
Manaea’s injury woes have been frustrating. Most of the Missouri Valley Conference season has spent trying to deal with the hip and he’s started on every day of a MVC weekend series.
Manaea hopes Saturday is a starting point to recovery and to get better for the rest of the MVC season … as well as his future minor league destination once he’s drafted in June.
“I want to battle through this. We’re struggling right now, but hopefully this week will get me back on a routine and things will start to turn out and get better these next couple of weeks,” Manaea said.
Evansville punished the one mistake Manaea made. In the third inning, Evansville catcher Chris Pearson pulled a Manaea offering that didn’t break over the left field fence for a solo home run. It was the only run scored in the game before it was suspended.
ISU’s offensive woes continued. Through six innings, ISU had three base hits and had only advanced one runner to third base. When ISU did get the bat on the ball — as Connor McClain did in the second — they were frustrated by excellent defense. Evansville center fielder Kevin Kaczmarski dove and robbed McClain of a hit that could have scored an ISU run.
ISU’s defense was just as stout. ISU third baseman Koby Kraemer made an outstanding diving grab of a popped up bunt that was tailing towards the ISU dugout in the third inning.
McClain paid the Aces back in the fifth by robbing Pearson of what would have been his second home run. McClain stretched and snared Pearson’s liner just as it was about to clear the fence.
The suspended game makes an already hairy ISU pitching situation worse. Sunday starter Daniel Peterson injured his elbow during Friday’s 13-inning game. He is definitely out. Heller said Peterson’s elbow was swollen on Saturday and he’ll likely have a MRI early next week.
Heller said Greg Kuhlman would start today’s scheduled game. As for the suspended game? Tyler Fehringer was on the mound when play was stopped, but Heller isn’t sure who he’ll throw to finish the contest.