News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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May 12, 2014

Sycamore Sweep

Surging ISU, now second in MVC after starting season 2-4, wins 9 of last 10

TERRE HAUTE — Entering Indiana State’s half of the sixth inning in its baseball series against Missouri State this weekend, the scores were thus: 6-6 on Friday, Missouri State leading 4-0 on Saturday and the Bears leading 3-0 on Sunday.

It’s instructive to bring those scores up to prove just how resilient and unflappable the current Sycamores team has been. The Sycamores won all three of the games and did so again in come-from-behind fashion with a 4-3 victory at Bob Warn Field on Sunday.

“The coaches have said all year we’re going to fight to the end. We try not to give up at-bats or outs on the mound or at the plate. I think that shows in crunch time,” ISU pitcher Ryan Keaffaber said.

The Sycamores owned the last stages of the game both behind the plate and on the mound to earn their first series sweep over Missouri State since 2005 and ISU’s first ever over the Bears on home soil.

From the sixth inning on during the series, ISU batted .425 (20-for-47) with six extra base hits and 10 RBIs. Pitching-wise, ISU was lights out from the seventh-to-ninth innings. The Bears mustered just four hits and scored one unearned run combined in the final three innings of the series.

This is team that doesn’t ever think it’s out of a game and continues to build on its belief with results.

“We’re just trying to keep the same approach through the whole game,” said ISU first baseman Jeff Zahn, who knocked in the go-ahead run for ISU. “[ISU coach Mitch Hannahs] just preaches for us to relax and don’t forget what we’ve worked on the entire year.”

It didn’t seem ISU (33-13, 12-6) was headed for a positive outcome on its Senior Day, as Missouri State starter Clay Murphy was stellar. ISU had just two base hits through six innings as Murphy struck out nine Sycamores.

ISU starter Kurt Kudrecki struggled in the second inning as Missouri State (21-28, 7-11) touched him up for three runs, all coming with two outs. Kudrecki, however, stood his ground and turned in one of his better efforts of the season. No Bears reached base against him for the remainder of his 61⁄3-inning effort, and his performance kept ISU in range.

“I thought the fact that Kudrecki turned his start around was big for us,” ISU coach Mitch Hannahs said. “He got us to the seventh, and I felt like if we had to get into the ’pen too early we’d be exposed on the back side. He did a good job stair-stepping us through.”

ISU finally got to Murphy in the seventh, as Brian Romero led off with a double. He scored on Zahn’s single to make it 3-1.

But the inning’s fateful play came with ISU runners at second and third with Landon Curry up in a two-out situation.

Curry hit a soft grounder that trickled between MSU pitcher Matt Hall and first baseman Conor Smith. Hall fielded it and flipped it high to Smith covering at first. Smith couldn’t get his glove on it, and Curry was safe. With two outs, ISU runners were going from contact and both scored to tie the game.

Fate had intervened on ISU’s side in the seventh, but the Sycamores made their own good fortune in the decisive eighth inning. Jacob Hayes led off with a single and advanced to second on a Manuel Estevez single. Zahn came up next, worked a 3-1 count, and then slapped a single to right field. Hayes easily beat the throw home to put ISU up 4-3.

By then, ISU stopper Keaffaber was already on the mound, and he set the Bears down in the ninth to clinch the series victory.

ISU’s sweep helped it take command of second place in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Sycamores remain two games behind red-hot Evansville, as the Purple Aces swept Illinois State on Sunday.

Evansville will win the top seed in the MVC Tournament with any combination of a win and an ISU loss. For ISU to win the MVC and the No. 1 seed, it would need to sweep its series at Bradley next weekend, and Evansville would have to be swept at Missouri State.

ISU will next play at Purdue on Tuesday.

MISSOURI STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Graham lf 2-0-1-1, Jefferson lf 1-0-0-0, Hawkins ss 3-0-1-2, Matheny cf 4-0-1-0, Becker 3b 4-0-0-0, Johnson dh 4-0-0-0, Cheray c 4-1-1-0, Drake rf 3-0-0-0, Kay rf 1-0-0-0, Wilson 1b 3-1-1-0, Smith 1b 0-0-0-0, Meyer 2b 2-1-1-0. TOTALS 31-3-6-3.

INDIANA STATE (AB-R-H-RBI) — Curry cf 3-0-0-0, Zimmerman 3b 4-0-1-0, Hayes rf 4-1-1-0, Fitzgerald c 3-0-0-0, Romero dh 3-1-1-0, Estevez dh 1-0-1-0, Wampler ss 4-0-1-0, Zahn 1b 4-1-2-2, McClain lf 4-1-1-0, Hannahs 2b 3-0-0-0 TOTALS 33-4-8-2.

Missouri State    030    000    000    —    3

Indiana State    000    000    31X    —    4

E — Smith 2 (4); DP — ISU 1. LOB — MSU 4, ISU 7. 2B — Romero (5); S — Hawkins (12); SB — McClain (7).

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